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Matt’s Favorites: Shopping Apps, Cyber Monday’s Best Deals, ISON Probably Gone, And Much More

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(Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

(Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

So what’s the latest on the first work day of December after the long, late Thanksgiving weekend? Well, check out these gems…

*First, 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 reports on Michigan’s tech-related events, client wins for Michigan’s tech-related businesses, and tech-related HR notices.

* Shopping for gifts can be a challenge, especially this time of year, but there are some free mobile apps that could make your life easier. From finding trendy stuff on sale with Stylr to the game-like Shopkick to shopping mall maps at Point Inside, we’ve got you covered.

* And here’s a News.com look at the best deals for Cyber Monday. And another Cyber Monday guide from Wired.

* My favorite astronomy blog, Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy, says it’s looking more and more like Comet ISON didn’t make it around its swing past the sun. Drat.

* Man, this is worse than the security code to the airlock on Druidia in Spaceballs: Turns out that for nearly 20 years, the code to unleash America’s vast nuclear arsenal, destroying all civilization. was 00000000.

* And here’s your now-traditional Wal-mart shopping brawl online footage. Joy!

* India’s Mars probe has successfully completed the next orbital maneuver it needed to make to journey to the Red Planet.

* Behold, the next telecom endangered species — plain old telephone service, landlines, that allow the use of unpowered devices where the phone company supplies both the line and the power.

* Encrypted email, secure instant messaging and other privacy services are booming in the wake of the National Security Agency’s recently revealed surveillance programs. But the flood of new computer security services is of variable quality, and much of it, experts say, can bog down computers and isn’t likely to keep out spies.

* Google’s practice of combining personal data from its many different online services violates Dutch data protection law, the country’s privacy watchdog said after a seven-month investigation. The Dutch Data Protection Authority, or DPA, asked Google to attend a meeting to discuss its concerns, after which it would decide whether to take any action against the cloud services, Internet search and advertising giant, which could include fines.

* A scientific journal has formally retracted a controversial study linking genetically modified corn to tumor growth and death risk in rats. The study appeared in the Sept. 19, 2012 issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology, and made headlines around the world with its stark images of rats who purportedly were more likely to develop large tumors and die early after eating Monsanto’s genetically modified maize, whether or not it was treated with a weed killer. But now the journal’s publisher, Elsevier, says the study led by biologist Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini of Caen University in France is being retracted due to concerns with the research methodology. Elsevier emphasized there’s no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation.

* Elderly adults who tried special brain training computer games had better gait and balance afterward than their peers who didn’t play games, according to new research.

* Have a few hundred bitcoins lying around? Now you can use them to buy a ticket to space. British billionaire Sir Richard Branson said his company Virgin Galactic is now accepting the digital-only currency for its commercial spaceflights aboard SpaceShipTwo.

* Already running three days late, launch of an upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a commercial communications satellite — the company’s first — was aborted Thursday two seconds after the booster’s nine first stage engines began throttling up for takeoff from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

* In a new Kindle Fire HDX ad, Amazon derisively presents iPad Air with a British accent and the Kindle with an American one. It’s a Jony Ive mockery.

* Due to what management describes as privacy concerns — how quaint! — a restaurant in Seattle is barring patrons from wearing their Google Glass while inside.

* Grammy Award winning recording engineer Bruce Swedien received his first nomination in 1962 for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and Swedien went on to record and mix most of Michael Jackson’s albums, including “Thriller,” the best-selling album of all time, and has been nominated for a total of 13 Grammys. Even if you’re just preparing to record a local band, CNet says the wealth of information between the covers of “The Bruce Swedien Recording Method” paperback book will give you a lot to think about. It’s not just for engineers; audiophiles will find the book a fascinating read.

* Vietnam is joining Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, as being known as a country that censors its citizens on social media. The government introduced a new law this week that fines people $4,740 for posting comments critical of the government on social-networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, according to Reuters. Some people could also face extensive prison terms. While the law is unclear about what kind of speech sparks government censorship, it does say that “propaganda against the state” and “reactionary ideology” would elicit fines.

* A federal judge has dismissed a privacy lawsuit that accused Apple off improperly collecting and sharing customers’ personal information. The suit, filed in 2011, accused Apple of violating privacy laws by transmitting a log of user locations collected via iPhone to third parties without user consent, even if customers had turned off geolocation capabilities. The plaintiffs also claimed they had paid more for their iPhones than they would have had they been aware of the data Apple was collecting.

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