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In Brief

Yesterday, Google announced the winners of its annual Science Fair, which rewards kids who push beyond the standard baking soda volcano. Out of the 15 projects selected to compete, Google’s panel selected three winners: In the 13-14 bracket, Viney Kumar of Australia created methods to help emergency vehicles better notify cars of their approach. In 15-16, Ann Makosinski of Canada designed a battery-less flashlight. And the 17-18 and Grand Prize winner, Eric Chen of the USA, explored new flu medicines and earned himself $50,000 in scholarship money on top of other prizes. So much for that volcano.

On The Web

After years on the blacklist of “piracy related” search terms, BitTorrent is searchable on Google. Users will now see the company’s name (as well as the uTorrent client) in auto-complete, and the results will finally point to the website — a big win for BitTorrent in its quest to divorce itself from piracy. The inclusion also has given the company a noticeable traffic bump. But Google’s filter is a fickle one, so it’s unlikely that many other sites will be removed from the blacklist anytime soon.

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In Brief

The United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union has added something new to its annual report on worldwide broadband penetration: gender inequality. According to the study, about 41 percent of men (1.5 billion total) will have access to the internet by the end of 2013, compared to just 37 percent of women (1.3 billion total). That gap could grow to 350 million by the end of 2016 — a sign that women are coming online at a much slower pace than men. This disparity is most pronounced in developing nations, where women trail in internet usage by 16 percent.

On The Web

The seedy underbelly of online reviews — especially companies paying for higher reviews — is a source of frequent speculation but rarely comes into the public eye. But according to the New York Times, New York regulators are cracking down on 19 businesses, forcing them to pay a total of $350,000 in fines for “astro-turfing” their pages with fake reviews. The year-long investigation uncovered a paid-for user review market and some good old fashioned bribery — a sign that some companies will go underground to boost their online  ratings.

In Brief

For the last few months, Instapaper creator Marco Arment has laid low. After selling his smash iOS app Instapaper to Betaworks in April and tablet publication The Magazine to the rest of its staff in May, Arment has remained secretive about his next big project. He gave a glimpse of his hard work yesterday at Portland’s XOXO festival, where Engadget reports that he revealed his latest app, Overcast. Aimed squarely at Apple’s current podcasting tech, Overcast is halfway completed and could be out sometime later this year.

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In Brief

Art is a funny thing — a uniquely human construct that relies an a careful and nuanced grasp of aesthetics. Robots haven’t always been known for their ability to make art, but many new machines are landing in the news for their skills according to TechDirt. One program, e-David, learns how to create forgeries of well-known works by an algorithm. Animal spotlighted another bot, BNJMN, that can actually create original artwork all by itself, thanks to a cleverly programed Arduino UNO. Can robots make art? Well, if elephants can, then I say yes.

On The Web

It’s safe to say that Mario, the indefatigable plumber who is gaming’s most recognizable character, would not exist without Hiroshi Yamauchi. The former company president, who died of pneumonia at 85, inherited Nintendo from his grandfather and spearheaded the company’s bold move into electronic gaming. He led the Japanese gaming giant for 53 years before stepping down in 2002, making him one of the richest men in Japan. But Yamauchi’s legacy goes beyond money, as his impact on commercial gaming has been undeniable — and seen best in Mario’s 30-year success.

In Brief

European cellular provider Vodafone may be secretly launching a smartphone, but an unsubtle report from the FCC has outed the company’s designs. Engadget spotted the U.S. regulatory body’s approval documents, which gave the green light to a “Vodafone Smart 4G” and posted all related documents today. The design appears to be a Yulong Coolpad 8860U, rebranded for its European debut, and is likely to pop up as a low-cost handset in the UK, where Vodafone has its current Smart brand.

In Brief

Tomorrow, iOS 7 will finally hit the streets for everyone — except those with an older, incompatible device. But a user on Reddit spotted a handy new feature: some older models will have the opportunity to download the “last compatible version” of an iOS app. It’s not perfect, as some commenters have noted that the feature works spottily for phones running iOS 3.1 (sorry, original iPhone), but it does mean that customers that don’t or can’t upgrade to iOS 7 won’t get left in the dust without any app options.

On The Web

While we have come a long way toward make automated translation easier, faster and more reliable, a world of seamless and immediate translation is still out of our grasp. Der Spiegel spoke with the German computer scientist chasing Google’s translation dreams, Franz Josef Och, about the challenges of translating between Google’s 71 supported languages. Surprisingly, a lot of it has to do with probability: Algorithms translate a phrase by computing the possible translations, then narrowing it down based on how a native speaker would order the words.

In Brief

After admitting that handling the “funding” part of crowdfunding has been a challenge, PayPal has officially promised better support with new policies in the coming months. Engadget spotted the company’s blog post, which slipped out inconspicuously on Wednesday and details PayPal’s difficulty with funding groups in a timely manner while remaining compliant with the government. It’s unclear what new policies or processes will be in place, but it’s likely a welcome relief for entrepreneurs and artists who have seen their newfound funds frozen after campaigns have completed.

In Brief

Today, Vodafone Germany released a press statement confirming that the company’s servers had been hacked, compromising 2 million mobile customers. The attack, which Vodafone claims was only possible by a hacker with “insider knowledge,” exposed names, addresses, bank account details and other pieces of personal information — but not phone or credit card numbers. The company, which is the second-largest mobile provider in Germany, is currently working with authorities, but has yet to make an arrest.

In Brief

Six months after Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy stepped down, the music streaming company finally has successor: executive and VC Brian McAndrews. The company’s new leader was an entrepreneur and served time as an SVP at Microsoft before becoming an investing partner at Madrona and a board member of the New York Times Co. McAndrews will lead Pandora as it continues to stew in a music royalties battle — the company was singled out in an open letter by Pink Floyd and most recently skirmishing over a radio station in South Dakota.

In Brief

A federal judge responsible for overseeing the the NSA‘s spying practices slammed the agency for “repeatedly submitting inaccurate descriptions” and ignoring minimization procedures to keep private domestic data away from investigations. The harsh words, as reported by the New York Times, come from a 2009 court decision that is among thousands of pages of documents released by intelligence officials in response to legal pressure from the ACLU and the EFF. The judge’s decision addressed the NSA’s retention of call log data which it used to screen against incoming calls.

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