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Technology

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Microsoft — a company most associated with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets — is getting a makeover.

Under new leadership, the software developer is analyzing vast troves of data about its users to create social tools for the workplace. They've got the goods — just think of all those Office emails that bind us together — but the question is, will customers want to cozy up socially with Microsoft, on and off the job?

Old Data, New Strategy

Breast-milk banks are a great way to help babies whose mothers aren't able to breast-feed. Breast milk, in case you didn't know, does a better job than formula at bolstering a baby's immune system, especially if the tot is premature or underweight.

Banks are easy to run in some parts of the world. In the U.S., donors place the breast milk in an ice-filled cooler and ship it to a central bank. The milk is pasteurized to kill germs, then mailed to donors on a refrigerated FedEx or UPS truck. The 16 American banks distribute 3 million ounces of breast milk a year across the country.

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President Obama says it's time for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet as a public utility to keep it free and open.

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HealthCare.gov barely worked when it launched last fall, with only six people able to enroll in a plan on opening day.

The United States Postal Service is the latest victim of a wide-scale online data breach.

A USPS spokesman told NPR today that more than 800,000 employees may have been affected. In a statement, USPS said "names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, beginning and end dates of employment, emergency contact information" may have been compromised.

On the same morning net neutrality demonstrators showed up at FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's house to protest a plan that could let broadband providers charge for "fast lanes" to the Internet, the demonstrators found unexpected support from the White House.

David Edwards has been called a real-life Willy Wonka. The biomedical engineer has developed, among other things, inhalable chocolate, ice cream spheres in edible wrappers, and a device called the "oPhone," which can transmit and receive odors.

Edwards is based at Harvard, but much of his work has been done in Paris, at a facility he calls Le Laboratoire. Now he's opened a similar "culture lab" closer to home: Le Laboratoire Cambridge in Cambridge, Mass.

Cultural Research And Development

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Emperor penguins are elegant and adorable. They're also quite shy and skittish around humans.

Many penguins tracked in Antarctica have data-collecting devices underneath their skin. Usually, researchers have to get close to them and use hand readers to pick up a signal from the devices — which freaks the penguins out.

Yvon Le Maho, who has been studying penguins for more than 40 years, decided to tackle that problem.

"I thought maybe we can use rovers," Le Maho says.

Dump a bucket of ice water on your head and post the video on Facebook. Or tweet a picture of yourself holding a sign reading "#BringBackOurGirls." Or sign an online petition. Voila, you're an instant activist!

Happy weekend, folks. Here's our weekly roundup of the headlines in tech, from NPR and beyond.

ICYMI

Ms. Smith Goes To Washington: In our profile of the new U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, she talks about unconscious bias, how she fell in love with science and how being in tech over the past few decades as changed her.

When Tom Magliozzi, cohost of NPR's Car Talk, died this week from complications of Alzheimer's disease, he left behind a fan base that extended far beyond the United States. Tom and Ray, his younger brother, took calls from and gave advice to people all over the world.

Electronic medical records were supposed to usher in the future of medicine.

Prescriptions would be beamed to the pharmacy. A doctor could call up patients' medical histories anywhere, anytime. Nurses and doctors could easily find patients' old lab results or last X-rays to see what how they're doing. The computer system could warn doctors about dangerous drug combinations before it was too late.

European and U.S. officials have arrested 17 people in a crackdown on underground online markets, including the Silk Road 2.0, that sell drugs and weapons, Europe's police agency said today in a statement.

A glitzy new production facility in Manhattan is a far cry from the bedrooms where many YouTube creators used to shoot their videos. Every inch of YouTube Space New York, which opened Thursday, can be used as a potential set.

The space contains three production studios and an area called Brand Lab, designed to bring Madison Avenue to YouTube's door.

Adam Relis, head of the facility, points to a portion of the floor covered with Lucite. More than 300,000 linear feet of cable are running beneath his feet. "That's 187 times the Empire State Building," he notes.

What's in your home, always on, ready to listen to you and constantly adapting to the way you talk? Why, it's Amazon's Echo speaker. Think a less portable Siri or Google Now, but hands-free.

Are you ready to bring an eavesdropping device that's connected to the cloud into the privacy of your abode?

Every time you type on your cellphone's keyboard, you're punching in tiny bits of Unicode, a universal standard for creating text, numbers and emoji.

The relationship between man and dog is unlike any other.

Many people dream of understanding what their dogs are thinking and feeling. Technology even lets us strap a camera on a dog's head to see what it sees.

Soon, we may be able to talk to our dogs — but not exactly with our voices.

With the fall season come littered leaves, new television lineups and the sport that can't stop stirring up controversy: football.

Rough tackles and concussions worry many parents. And no wonder. Research cited by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons suggests that more than a third of college football players have had one concussion and 20 percent have had more than one.

The Wankel T. rex, named for the Montana rancher who found its bones, is destined to be the giant centerpiece for the new dinosaur hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. — the first nearly complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex the Smithsonian Institution has ever had. But when it arrived at the museum last April, the skeleton was in pieces — in a couple of dozen packing crates.

Somewhere around the world, someone is trying to breach the security system of a large company. These attempted intrusions happen all the time.

Some experts say that to defeat the bad hackers, you've got to partner with the good ones. Recruit them to find holes and bugs in software and, when they do, pay them for it.

Responding to users' complaints about a lack of characters whose skin reflects the variety of people who use smartphones, the group that sets technical standards is adding five more shades to the mix.

The Unicode Consortium had previously backed only one skin color, a yellow-orange tone that it considered generic. But it threw away that approach after a wide call for more variety.

What if you could track people getting sick just by analyzing how they surf the Web?

If we asked you to name a few technology companies, Google or Microsoft might come to mind. But one tech company that isn't so obvious is Michigan-based but globally present Domino's Pizza.

In recent years, the company has gotten noticeably good at something that wasn't always its focus — developing technology products to get pizzas to people more easily.

The mobile messaging app WeChat has taken China by storm in the past couple years, swiftly becoming the largest standalone-messaging app, with more than 300 million active monthly users.

It has an ever-growing array of functions, from text and voice messaging to photo sharing. Perhaps most importantly, WeChat users also have the ability to form groups of up to 500 people.

China says it has developed a laser capable of destroying a small drone flying at a low altitude.

The official state news agency Xinhua reports:

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are about to hear from an author who wrote a love letter to a machine. Judith Newman wrote in The New York Times that a talking phone made life easier for her 13-year-old son, Gus, who has autism. Now Judith Newman brings her story to us.

When I sat down with Benedict Cumberbatch to talk about Sherlock, the first thing on his mind wasn't exactly the show.

"I'm really worried about those Sherlock fans, because they have been here, probably, for a while," Cumberbatch says to his assistants, asking them to tell a small clutch of fans waiting outside the hotel where we were meeting that he would stop by to see them soon.

Army Eyes 3-D Printed Food For Soldiers

Nov 4, 2014

Army scientists have spent decades concocting meals that last without refrigeration and survive high-altitude airdrops. And now, the Army is eyeing a new form of cooking: 3-D printing! Yes, food that comes fresh out of a printer, for our troops.

Lauren Oleksyk, a food technologist leading the team at the Army's Natick research center, lays out the vision.

Imagine soldiers who are strapped, head to toe, with sensors that measure if they're high or low in potassium or cholesterol.

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