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Matt’s Favorites: Tech And Audio Gift Lists, Virtual Yule Log, And More

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Two possible models of Europa. Wikimedia Commons Image.

Two possible models of Europa. Wikimedia Commons Image.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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So what’s the latest on a frigid Friday with half a foot of snow on the way? Well, test fire the blower and get the shovel out of the garage rafters, but not before you read all this cool stuff…

* First, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news. And here are our latest reports on tech-related HR notices from Michigan and tech-related awards and certifications involving Michigan folks.

* And a bit of a distant early warning: The final day of your WWJ Technology Report for 2013 will be Friday, Dec. 20. We will resume publication on Monday, Jan. 6.

* From CNet, here’s a nifty look at great tech gifts for less than $50.

* And here’s a nifty look at audio gifts for under $100.

* Do you need instant ambiance for holiday get-togethers? If you’re on Comcast, you can tune to the popular Yule Log on Xfinity On Demand, Xfinity.com/TV or on the Xfinity TV Go app for a crackling fire and festive tunes. And speaking of Comcast, keep the mood going with a new or classic holiday film like “Scrooged,” “White Christmas” or “Miracle on 34th Street” found On Demand under Movie Collections. If holiday travel is in the plan, the Xfinity TV Go app lets customers live stream 35 networks, watch thousands of movies and TV shows On Demand and download directly to mobile devices to watch even when there where there might not be an internet connection.

* And here’s a high-tech choir from Australia.

* Here’s a hoot: an ACLU video with NSA agents posing as Santa.

* Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may erupt with fleeting plumes of water more than 20 times the height of Mt. Everest, scientists say. If these giant waterspouts are confirmed, they could be a way to detect signs of any life that might exist in the underground ocean that researchers suspect Europa has, scientists added. They were spotted by comparing recent and older images of Europa taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

* And here’s a look at the year’s top 10 videos.

* Just because it’s safe to use cellphones on a plane, it doesn’t mean that passengers should call just to say hello. That argument played out across Washington Thursday as one government agency voted to remove its prohibition of in-flight calls while another considered its own ban.

* If you thought that blocking someone on Twitter meant that they could no longer see your tweets, think again. While that was formerly the case, an update to the Twitter service appears to have changed the way blocking works. Now, blocking someone means that you will not see any of their activity, but they can still see everything you do. There is a growing outcry on Twitter of people realizing that the feature has changed. One of the most common sentiments seems to be that blocking — formerly a way to stop someone, say, a stalker, from seeing what you’re doing — is no longer helpful in that regard.

* CNet reports there is a pretty good chance that half the visitors to this story will not be human. According to a recent study by Incapsula, more than 61 percent of all Web traffic is now generated by bots, a 21 percent increase over 2012. Much of this increase is due to “good bots,” certified agents such as search engines and Web performance tools. These friendly bots saw their proportion of traffic increase from 20 percent to 31 percent.

* It appears the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed for a new policy that will now let consumers unlock their cell phones more easily. The Federal Communications Commission has reached an agreement with the five major US wireless carriers that requires the carriers to disclose how and when cell phones on their networks can be unlocked, according to Reuters.

* JetBlue is rolling out a new form of inflight Wi-Fi operating from satellites instead of ground-based cell towers. Up to eight times faster than traditional inflight Wi-Fi, it will enable users to stream video whilst in the air, something that is nearly impossible to do with current dial-up speed access in aircraft.

* Teenagers aren’t the only ones that could use a lecture about texting while driving. New research shows more adults use their phones while driving than teens. The report, done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reveals that adult drivers are by far the likeliest age group to admit to using their phone while driving.

* A growing number of American students are eager to cash in on expected boom market for drone operators after more unmanned aircraft become legal to fly in U.S. airspace, which could happen in the next few years. The University of North Dakota’s unmanned aircraft degree program, the nation’s first, exploded from five students in 2009 to 120 students last year. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Kansas State University have since added similar programs.

* Instagram on Thursday announced a direct messaging service that lets users share photos and videos with individual users. The company’s co-founder Kevin Systrom unveiled the new feature at an event in New York City. Instagram Direct works by letting user take a photo or video and select if it will be shared with all followers or up to 15 select users.

* Speaking of Instagram, here’s a really dumb way to use it — to brag about stuff you, as a convicted felon, are not allowed to possess. You have the right to remain silent…

* A secret, new surveillance drone has been developed by defense giant Northrop Grumman. The drone, which is designed to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions, could enter operational service in the U.S. Air Force by 2015, according to news reports.

* Here’s a new tech competition for smarter, safer guns.

* And here’s a cool Web site that helps with dream interpretation.

* The ITU has taken a big step in the standardization of G.fast, a broadband technology capable of achieving download speeds of up to 1Gbps over copper telephone wire.

* Three lawsuits filed last week that attempted to achieve ‘legal personhood’ for four chimpanzees living in New York have been struck down.

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