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It’s been a week where the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens proved it was possible for the Internet to be optimistic about something without a wave of cynicism immediately following it, and a genuinely amazing music video from David Hasselhoff proved that irony has itself discovered irony and now no one knows what they really like and just pretend to like anymore. (No, really, go watch that video; it’s nuts.) With all that in mind, here are the other highlights from this thing we call Internet over the last seven days.

The New Hero of Star Wars

What Happened: Never mind the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser; the thing that really blew up on the first day of Star Wars Celebration is the next movie’s new droid, BB-8.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

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End Date: Apr 29,2015 07:59 AM GMT-07:00
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schwit1 writes A giant welding machine, built for NASA's multi-billion dollar Space Launch System (SLS), has to be taken apart and rebuilt because the contractor failed to reinforce the floor, as required, prior to construction: "Sweden's ESAB Welding & Cutting, which has its North American headquarters in Florence, South Carolina, built the the roughly 50-meter tall Vertical Assembly Center as a subcontractor to SLS contractor Boeing at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

ESAB was supposed to reinforce Michoud's floor before installing the welding tool, but did not, NASA SLS Program Manager Todd May told SpaceNews after an April 15 panel session during the 31st Space Symposium here. As a result, the enormous machine leaned ever so slightly, cocking the rails that guide massive rings used to lift parts of the 8.4-meter-diameter SLS stages The rings wound up 0.06 degrees out of alignment, which may not sound like much, "but when you're talking about something that's 217 feet [66.14 meters] tall, that adds up," May said.

Asked why ESAB did not reinforce the foundation as it was supposed to, May said only it was a result of "a miscommunication between two [Boeing] subcontractors and ESAB."

It is baffling how everyone at NASA, Boeing, and ESAB could have forgotten to do the reinforcing, even though it was specified in the contract. It also suggests that the quality control in the SLS rocket program has some serious problems.

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For many years now, we've been writing about the need for ECPA reform. ECPA is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, written in the mid-1980s, which has some frankly bizarre definitions and rules concerning the privacy of electronic information. There are a lot of weird ones but the one we talk about most is that ECPA defines electronic communications that have been on a server for 180 days or more as "abandoned," allowing them to be examined without a warrant and without probable cause as required under the 4th Amendment. That may have made sense in the 1980s when electronic communications tended to be downloaded to local machines (and deleted), but make little sense in an era of cloud computing when the majority of people store their email forever on servers. For the past few years, Congress has proposed reforming ECPA to require an actual warrant for such emails, and there's tremendous Congressional support for this.

And yet... it never seems to pass. The story that we keep hearing is that two government agencies in particular really like ECPA's outdated system: the IRS and the SEC. Since both only have administrative subpoena power, and not the ability to issue warrants like law enforcement, the lower standards of ECPA make it much easier for them to snoop through your emails without having to show probable cause. Last year, in a Congressional hearing, the SEC's boss, Mary Jo White, was questioned about this by Congressman Kevin Yoder, who has been leading the charge on ECPA reform. As we reported at the time, in the conversation, White clearly said that the SEC needed this ability or it would lose "critical" information in its investigations. You can see the conversation from 2014 below, where White (starting around 2:30) explains how vital this process is to the SEC:

Here's the key line:
"What concerns me, as the head of a... law enforcement agency, is that we not put out of reach of lawful process... what is often, sometimes the only, but critical evidence of a serious securities fraud.... And we use that authority quite judiciously, but it's extremely important to law enforcement."
What struck us as interesting last year was White admitting that the SEC appeared to regularly use this process, since she noted that it was "extremely important" and provided "critical evidence."

Fast forward to this week, and the same two players were involved in yet another Congressional hearing. You can see that conversation here as well, with the critical point being made after about four and a half minutes, where White says some of the same stuff, about the privacy protections, and how even if the SEC used this process it still notifies the subscribers to give them a due process right to protest the subpoena... but also, oddly, seems to claim that the SEC never actually makes use of this process:

Here's the key line this time (the full response is a jumble of half sentences and unfinished thoughts, so it's a bit of a mess):
"While these discussions have been going on, to try to sufficiently balance the privacy and the law enforcement interests, we've not to date to my knowledge proceeded to subpoena the ISPs. But that, I think, is critical authority to be able to maintain -- done in the right way and with sufficient solicitousness and it's very important to the privacy interests which I do think can be balanced.
As I said, if you watch her entire response, it's a complete mess of half-finished thoughts, which seems rather typical of someone trying to sound like they're answering a question but not actually doing so. Later in the same answer, she insists that taking away this authority might take away an important tool.

So, we know that the SEC really wants to keep this tool. But last year it said it was "extremely important" and provided "critical evidence." This year, she's saying that the SEC isn't even using the tool. So, uh, which is it? Is this tool absolutely necessary for critical evidence, or is it not even being used by the SEC?

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It's been more than a year since Comcast announced its plan to buy fellow cable giant Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal, but it still hasn't received the blessings of various regulators. Now, word is leaking out from unnamed sources to Bloomberg and the New York Times that suggests Justice Department lawyers will recommend blocking the merger. Many consumer groups, politicians and executives from other companies have raised concerns over the last year that the combination would put too many customers, and too much of the nation's internet under one banner, despite a promise by Comcast to divest itself of some 3 million customers. Facing so much negative attention, Comcast is trying to improve customer service and reassure skeptics that it will be a friendly giant telecommunications company, but hasn't had much success convincing anyone that its plan will make cable TV better.

The NYT report mentions that while Comcast could potentially negotiate potential conditions to place on the deal -- a key part of its NBCUniversal acquisition a few years ago -- that process hasn't started yet with the Justice Department or the FCC. Execs for both companies are still publicly confident the deal will go through, and fellow cable giant Charter has already made alternative acquisition plans. No one knows how long it may take for the various reviews to come to a conclusion, and even if the report recommends blocking the deal, it could be overruled by the division's senior officials. For now, we wait, but an update could come when TWC reports its quarterly earnings April 30th, or during Comcast's earnings report May 4th.

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Over the course of the last day, some of my geek buddies have described getting emotional upon watching the new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer, especially when Han Solo pops up at the end. Seeing the visibly older Harrison Ford as Han, they say, reminds them of the first "Star Wars" movie they watched -- how old they were at the time, the amazement they felt seeing eye-popping TIE fighter tricks and their first lightsaber duel, how the "Star Wars" canon has affected their lives since.

So I wasn't surprised to see actor Matthew McConaughey, in the video above, getting clearly overwhelmed while watching the trailer that came out Thursday.

But then things take a bizarre turn and he gets really, really emotional. Like the kind of emotional you'd get if you were seeing your kids' faces for the first time after you'd been busy traveling through an interdimensional black hole and they hadn't talked to you for the equivalent of decades.

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The industry is focusing less on electronic record features and more on sharing the data held in them.

Last year at HIMSS14 I asked rhetorically whether we would actually focus on how informatics could fix healthcare. Would we finally realize that the whiz-bang features of one electronic health record versus another are less important than whether they can talk to each other, using an API-based approach to data exchange?

This year at HIMSS15, the largest event for healthcare IT, API-based exchange has a name -- FHIR -- and virtually everybody and everything is focused on it as the standards framework.

Not quite everybody, of course. One young entrepreneur who approached me in the aisle didn't yet even have a company, but his business concept was a natural for FHIR. However, he wasn't aware of it. I sent him off to the Interoperability Showcase (to Georgia Tech's I3L and Josh Mandel's SMART on FHIR booths) so he could learn about it and how to use it. Last year, though, I could far too easily find established companies whose teams needed a similar education on FHIR.

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What’s your lifetime total time spent riding in an Uber? A few hours? A day? How about 21 days, 22 hours and 33 minutes, over a total of 2,958 trips — currently the top of the leaderboard on new the site Uber Totals. That accomplishment belongs to a former Twitter product manager named Christopher Golda.

(Golda’s nearly 3,000 trips completely crushes my own total — 69 rides for a total of more than 18 hours.)

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Apple designers Jony Ive and Marc Newson were on hand in Italy to attend a high-fashion coming out party for Apple Watch at upscale Milanese restaurant Carlo e Camilla. During the festivities, important guests were provided early copies of Apple Watch, as well as what appears to be Sport Bands in custom colors.

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Source: Umberta Gnutti Beretta via Twitter

Socialite Umberta Gnutti Beretta, wife of Beretta firearms president Franco Beretta, posted to Instagram a few photos of tonight's gala attended by Ive, Newson and fashion and design luminaries.

One picture shows Beretta picking out a Sport Band for her early Apple Watch unit, selecting from an array of at least of 15 different colors including numerous light pastels, bright yellows and reds. The unannounced colorways jibe with photographs from British cyclist Will Carling, who said Ive gave him an unreleased UK power adapter and red Apple Watch band.

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Batman.v.superman.trailerA screenshot from the non-leaked "Batman v Superman" trailer.

Image: Twitter

LOS ANGELES — Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder dealt a blow to the baddest new supervillain in town — The Leaker — on Friday afternoon by delivering a full-resolution version of the teaser trailer leaked the night before.

Or did he play right into The Leaker's hands?

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Every Key Detail And Killer Moment From The Batman V. Superman Trailer

It’s finally here — the first HD footage of the clash between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. We’ve already watched the HD version a half dozen times, but now it’s time to pore over GIFs and screencaps, to catch every detail and all the insane drama. Here’s everything we spotted!

Warning: Some spoilers and speculation, based on what we know about this film and what we’ve heard through the rumor mill, ahead...

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Editor’s note: Morgan Hermand-Waiche is the founder and CEO of e-commerce lingerie startup Adore Me.

I’ll be the first to admit it: Facebook advertising played a big part in my startup’s rapid growth. So big in fact that in our first two years of operations, all other online advertising platforms combined did not provide as big a growth contribution to the business as Facebook singlehandedly did.

And yet, over the past nine months, I’ve been making every effort possible to divert our eight-figure annual marketing budget elsewhere. The reason for that is simple: Facebook is fostering an unsustainable bubble that is actively pushing startups, and any online-savvy business for that matter, away. 

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Two robots that can change their shape on command have provided the most detailed look yet inside the heart of reactor number 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.

The reactor is one of three that suffered a core meltdown after the massive tsunami that knocked electrical systems offline at the plant in March 2011, prompting a nuclear emergency that will take decades to clean up.

One of the most difficult jobs for the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), is how to safely decommission the reactors that melted down, which are much too dangerous for humans to enter.

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Why You Need Boredom, Distraction, and Procrastination in Your Life

Most of us—no matter how many time-saving techniques we employ—don’t have enough time to waste. But productivity comes at a cost: having that down time is extremely beneficial. We fight against boredom, distraction, and procrastination all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should get rid of them completely.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, we’re remembering the holy trinity of inactivity.

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U.S. regulators on Friday voted to open a swath of government-controlled airwaves for commercial use by tech and telecom companies such as Verizon and Google as they seek to meet growing data demands from new wireless devices.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to chalk out a process to allow companies free access to the frequencies in the 3.5 gigahertz band.

Those airwaves’ ability to carry heavy data across short distances makes them particularly attractive to companies.

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My favorite DIY projects are ones that an idiot like myself can do in a few days. To wit, this Raspberry Pi laptop that lets you create a portable computer with keyboard and mouse with only a few parts.

The project uses the PiJuice battery module and a 5-inch TFT module. In this project you simply cut or print a case for the screen – this one uses laser cut wood – and an HDMI cable.

Slap in an HDMI cable, a wireless keyboard and mouse and you’re all set. Arguably this thing is far less complex than, say, the Pi-Top 3D-printed laptop but it could be a fun side project. You can also use a standard battery to power the whole thing and you can buy a tiny keyboard and touchpad combo to make things a bit smaller. While you probably won’t be doing much GIMP or 3D modeling on this little monster, you can definitely look like a true hax0r.

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As of today, electric vehicle owners in San Francisco can revitalize their car's battery at any of three off-the-grid charging stations powered entirely by solar energy. For free. The Level 2 charging stations are the work of a company called Envision Solar; San Francisco's Department of the Environment and Charge Across Town also helped bring the three Electric Vehicle Autonomous Renewable Chargers, each with a value of $45,000, to the city. They generate 3.3 kilowatts of electricity, according to CNET, which falls on the lower end of that Level 2 classification — though it still beats plugging into a 120V outlet at home. The attached lithium ion battery pack stores 22.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The self-contained charging stations will remain in San Francisco through the rest of 2015, though they'll be changing venues every few months. "The mobile solar units will collect data on frequency and duration of use," Envision Solar said in a press release, and after those numbers get crunched, they'll permanently be donated to the locations that saw the most charging.

"This program allows the City of San Francisco to demonstrate that electric vehicles can charge from 100-percent renewable sources and with no impact to grid operations, making better use of our energy supply," said San Francisco's Mayor Edwin Lee at a press conference. True enough, the main appeal here is these things don't have to plug into the grid and use electricity sourced from traditional power plants.

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Six percent of Americans say they want to own an Apple Watch, but based on all the aspiring owners we’ve encountered, they’re still trying to figure out why.

Dan wants to skip the wearables phase and go straight to bio implants, but the implications of always-recording tech in your body are almost too much for a conspiracy theorist to bear.

The ultimate accessory for VR goggles might be a fine glass of Scotch.

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Unfriended hits theaters today, and while it seems easy to reduce the movie’s elevator pitch down to “I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Paranormal Activity with webcams,” it’s really part of a much more important cultural tradition. The ever-expanding ranks of Internet Cautionary Horror Movies didn’t just appear one day fully formed, there’s a history here. The stage for Unfriended has been under construction for years, this weekend just marks the time director Levan Gabriadze’s movie gets to stand in the spotlight.

And these Internet cautionary tales encompass just one subgenre of horror, which has long been chronicling society’s ongoing battle with itself. Scary movies have always served as one of modern culture’s best time capsules. Using monsters as metaphors, horror films turn our actual fears into fantastically gruesome scenarios. Unfriended and its ilk simply reflect present-day anxieties about our lives online—just like teen slasher films tapped into our feelings about taboo topics like sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll in the 1980s. And in every decade from the early 20th century to the present day, each installment in the genre gives us a fascinating window into the fears of our past, and therefore a greater understanding of our present.

Want to know how horror went from killers in the woods to killers on the web? Need a primer on all the ways our apprehensions about the Internet have manifested into big screen tropes? Then let’s get started, shall we?

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