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Matt’s Favorites: A New Space Race? NSA Loses In Court, And Much More

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mattroush Matt Roush
Matt Roush joined WWJ Newsradio 950 in September 2001 to spearhead the...
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Let it snow, let it snow, let it — OK, please, don’t hurt me. I’ll shut up about how pretty the snow is and give you lots of fabulous tech news to keep you warm, okay?

* First, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, where you will find much worthwhile news.

* And once again, a reminder… we will be shut down the weeks of Dec. 23 and 30 for a good old-fashioned two-week vacation. Hope you enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s holidays safely with your loved ones, as I plan to.

* So is China’s super cool new moon rover going to spark another superpower space race? (Assuming for the sake of argument that we’re still a superpower, smartypants.) Well, we can only hope so. We got tons of technological advances out of the last one.

* A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches, but put his decision on hold pending a near-certain government appeal.

* Sprint has mounted a year-end push to deliver 4G LTE to a larger number of new markets. The carrier announced Monday that it has expanded its 4G LTE network to 70 more cities, including Kalamazoo-Portage, Muskegon-Norton Shores and Traverse City in Michigan. Also on the list are Green Bay, Wis.; Orlando, Fla.; San Diego; and St. Louis. The new LTE markets bring Sprint’s total to 300 across the United States.

* The Web world was abuzz on Monday with reports that AOL’s foray into local news with Patch was in the process of being shuttered. But now it appears that might not be the case. The New York Times’ David Carr on Sunday reported that AOL is “winding down” its Patch network of local news sites after repeated attempts by the company’s CEO, Tim Armstrong, to boost the ailing company. In an e-mailed memo to employees, Patch COO Leigh Zarelli Lewis indicated that Patch is still running, but that the company is currently in talks with “potential partners.”

* Spacewalk or space delivery? That’s the question facing NASA as space station flight controllers try to revive a crippled cooling loop. Half of the International Space Station’s cooling system shut down last Wednesday because of a bad valve that made the line too cold. NASA is using a different valve to try to control the temperature, with some success, Kenny Todd, a space station manager said Monday. The two American astronauts on board, Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins, may need to make spacewalking repairs, beginning Thursday. That’s the same day an unmanned rocket is supposed to hoist a space station cargo ship from Wallops Island, Va. Spokesman Josh Byerly said NASA expects to decide Tuesday which should take priority – repairs or restocking.

* The real world has not caught up yet with “Star Wars” and its talking, thinking robots, but some of the most sophisticated units that exist are heading to Florida this week for a Defense Department competition. Seventeen humanoid robots will be evaluated Friday and Saturday at Homestead Miami Speedway for how well they can complete tasks including getting into an all-terrain vehicle and driving it and opening doors.

* Scientists poking around Ethiopia’s fossil-rich badlands say they have discovered the first pieces of an extinct species of horse that was about the size of a small zebra and lived about 4.4 million years ago. The specimens were found in what is now an arid desert. But at the time this grass-eating horse roamed the planet, the region would have been covered in grasslands and shrubby woods — rich grounds for grazing.

* A casino owner-turned-commercial developer is asking $7.85 million to sell a Las Vegas home, and he’s willing to accept the online currency bitcoin for the deal. Jack Sommer said he got the idea to seek bitcoin for his 25,000-square-foot mansion from two of his sons, who’ve been involved in making and trading the currency. “The advantage is that we’re expanding our market and adding some notoriety,” Sommer said.

* Amazon may soon have a demonstration on its hands at its Seattle headquarters, according to a new report. Employees who have been on strike and demonstrating at two fulfillment centers in Germany plan to host a rally outside the company’s headquarters in Seattle at 10 a.m. PT today, The New York Times reported, citing people involved in the rally.

* Here’s yet another story of UPS driver idiocy — leaving a package containing a tablet in the trash can. ON TRASH DAY.

* What do you give the gamer who plays Call of Duty with diamond-encrusted guns? How about a 24-karat gold-plated Xbox One? For a mere 6,000 British pounds — that’s approximately $9,785 — you can get your hands on this decadent console for the holidays.

* Here’s some Mad Libs fun — an online generator of denunciation-laced North Korean press releases.

* Motorola Mobility, which was acquired by Google in 2012, lost a bid to invalidate a Microsoft patent that has to do with mobile calendar syncing. The patent was originally used by Microsoft to win a ban on U.S .imports of some models of Motorola phones, according to Bloomberg.

* When it comes to competition in the US mobile market, federal regulators see four as the magic number. This fact alone could sink Sprint’s rumored takeover bid for T-Mobile. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Sprint is preparing a $20 billion bid for T-Mobile in an acquisition that would reduce the total number of national wireless operators from four to three. But regulators in Washington, DC, have already signaled that they’re likely to put the kibosh on such a tie-up.

* CNet isn’t expecting many breakthroughs in the new tablets to be unveiled at the International CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in three weeks.

* The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is crowdsourcing its software testing with a series of online games aimed at seeking out bugs and vulnerabilities.

Apple might have promised 12 days of gifts starting the day after Christmas, but that hasn’t stopped the company from going for lucky No. 13. Apple on Monday released a free offer to those who have downloaded its 12 Days of Gifts app, giving consumers a free download of musical artist Lorde’s “No Better” single. The offer also includes a music video for her breakout hit “Royals.”

* Tablets trumped other holiday tech gifts in a recent CNet survey, which means some of you might be reading this on a brand new tab — or have one in your hands very soon. But what will you do with said portable computer once you’ve unwrapped it? We’re guessing you’ll watch some Netflix, play some games, and maybe send a holiday greeting or two via e-email. But there’s lots more you can do with your device. Click on this CNet gallery for a few tablet ideas you might not have thought of, and be sure to add your own ideas in the comments section.

* Commercial package-delivery drones such as those revealed by Amazon and DHL could face danger from more than shotgun-toting, UAV-hunting yahoos following the successful test of a drone-killing laser by the U.S. Army.

* It’s long been a concern that the widespread use of antibacterials soaps is contributing towards the evolution of drug-resistant “superbugs”, but as the Washington Post reports, the Food and Drug Administration also does not believe that there is any evidence to support that the antibacterial agents in soaps are any more effective at killing germs than simply washing with soap and water.

* In England, auto firm McLaren is designing a sports car that uses a system adapted from fighter jets to keep a driver’s vision clear in bad weather without the need for blades. It is believed to involve high-frequency sound waves similar to those used by dentists for removing plaque from patients’ teeth.

* NASA is testing a new, lighter spacesuit for asteroid work.

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