So what’s the latest from the wonderful world of science and technology on this fine Thursday morning, when I hope to see you at Lawrence Tech? Well, here goes…

* First of all, here are links to the Tech Report home page and Tech Report Page Two, as well as our latest report on tech-related client wins.

* Ann Arbor Spark’s latest online CEO conversation is with Don Hicks, founder, president and CEO of LLamasoft, which provides software and expertise to help large organizations design and improve their supply chain network operations. LLamasoft has experienced impressive growth since the company was founded in 2003 in Ann Arbor. It is now a six-year recipient of Ann Arbor Spark’s FastTrack Award. In order to receive the award, a company must have more than $100,000 in revenue and grow by at least 20 percent for 3 years in a row. In his conversation with Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor Spark, Hicks discusses why he chose Ann Arbor to start LLamasoft. He also talks about its newly expanded office space, the global war for talent, and what’s behind the name LLamasoft. More at this link.

* My old PR pal Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations at Michigan Technological Univerisity, is in Thailand for the month of November as a Fulbright program communications specialist, working with Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Engineering in Bangkok. She’s blogging about her adventures at Well, sa wah dee kaa (that’s both hello and goodbye in Thailand).

* Netflix is launching a major overhaul of its user interface on a number of devices, including the Roku, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Two years in the making, the new interface is a more visual experience and shifts the focus from navigating the menu to highlighting the content.

* The nation’s second-largest school district will move ahead with an ambitious $1 billion plan to provide iPads to all students after problems emerged when some of the first to get them used the tablets to tweet, text and play games instead of studying. The Los Angeles Times reports the Los Angeles Board of Education voted 6-1 on Tuesday that 35 campuses will receive the devices this year in addition to nearly 50 in the first group.

* A 270-square-mile iceberg that broke off of the Antarctic ice sheet in July has started to drift toward open waters, and now researchers are concerned that it could threaten commercial shipping lanes in the South Atlantic. In an attempt to mitigate the danger, the U.K.’s National Environment Research Council just awarded an emergency grant to a group of British researchers who will track the iceberg.

* Apple is demanding that Samsung Electronics pay it $380 million for copying vital iPhone and iPad features. An Apple attorney made the demand Wednesday during opening statements of aSilicon Valley patent trial. A previous jury already has concluded that 26 Samsung products copied Apple’s scrolling function, iPhone design and other features. That jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion.

* Sony’s PlayStation 4 hits stores on Friday, and we’ve got a sneak peek at what’s inside the box. The PS4 features a PC-like body architecture, x86 CPU, 8 gigabytes of unified memory and a 500 gigabyte hard drive. The console will come with an updated DualShock 4 controller with a touchpad, new light sensor and share button.

* Facebook made Snapchat, maker of an app for exchanging ephemeral messages, an offer of lasting value: $3 billion in cash, according to The Wall Street Journal. Snapchat, true to its form, discarded the deal just as it does the 350 million messages it handles every day. The rebuffed offer, more than three times the value of Facebook’s successful bid for Instagram, comes as 2-year-old Snapchat explores a massive funding round at around a $4 billion valuation.

* Four billion years ago, Mars would have been a pretty nice place for a spring-break trip. At least that’s the way it appears in a new animation published to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s YouTube channel on Wednesday. The animated artist’s rendition of ancient Mars begins with a flyover of a lake that bears a slight resemblance to, say, Utah’s Lake Powell. Then we see time progress and a transition from a warm, wetter climate to a dry, colder one (like, say, 10 miles north of Lake Powell in January).

* An Austrian cleaning robot allegedly immolates itself on a kitchen hotplate. Because, you know, housework.

* And, whew, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover appears to be working just fine after a deep space version of control-alt-delete. And India’s Mars mission is also back on track after a glitch.

* Closer to home but still in space, scientists say the sun is acting seriously weird. The current sunspot cycle max is the weakest in 200 years, and the sun’s predicted magnetic pole reversal is also screwed up, with the sun apparently now having two south poles.

* For more than 14 years, conservationist Dr. Barney Long has been researching and trying to protect the saola species in southeast Asia. But in all that time, he never spotted a living saola in the wild. Neither did the cameras that he has helped set up over the past decade. And so, when he received an email at 1:03am on Nov. 1 from colleagues in Vietnam, asking if he was awake, he immediately respond. A second later, they followed up. “Confirm the identification to show I’m not going mad,” the email read.

* Google’s inexpensive, new Android phones mean the company has a real chance at transforming the wireless industry — something it attempted to do nearly four years ago with the Nexus One. In October, the company released the Nexus 5, a top-end phone built by LG Electronics that has a remarkably low price of $349 for a 16GB model — unlocked and with no contract. On Wednesday, Google announced the Moto G, which costs $179 for an 8GB model, also unlocked and off contract.

* If you’re a Firefox OS fan and you live in the United States, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer to get your Firefox phone. Earlier this year, Mozilla’s then-CEO Gary Kovacs said at Mobile World Congress that Firefox OS phones would be coming to Sprint in 2014. At the OpenMobile Summit here Wednesday morning, Mozilla Executive Chair Mitchell Baker appeared to backtrack that comment.

* The retailers tasked with selling the HP Chromebook 11 have stopped carrying the laptops without explanation. A scan of Best Buy’s Web site and Wednesday showed the product is no longer available. What’s more is Best Buy is urgently removing the HP Chromebook 11 from its stores, according to The Verge.

* Twitter said Wednesday that it has introduced a set of tools that allow marketers to target ads at mobile users based on a wide range of criteria, including their operating system, their device, and even if they’re on Wi-Fi.

* Apple is accused of hiding more than 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from Italy’s taxman, which may lead to civil or even criminal sanctions against the technology giant. First reported by Italian media, and confirmed to Reuters citing a judicial source with knowledge of the situation, an investigation into the company’s tax affairs is “under way.”


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