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Solar power plant in Ivanpah, California

A common sight in the sky above the world's largest solar thermal power plant is a "streamer," a small plume of smoke that occurs without warning. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the source of the smoke is a bird which has inadvertently strayed into the white-hot heat above the plant's many reflecting mirrors. Because the BrightSource Energy plant near Ivanpah uses supercritical steam rather than photovoltaic energy, the sun's heat is reflected off more than 300,000 mirrors to a single point, which is used to drive a steam turbine. The downside of that, of course, is that it's lethal for any wildlife that strays into the picture -- a problem that was recognized well before the facility opened, but now the government has gotten involved.

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Barnes & Noble has officially kicked off a new era -- one in which it doesn't manufacture its own tablets. The struggling book outlet announced last summer that it would work with other manufacturers going forward and Samsung is first inline. The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is the fruit of this partnership. It's a tablet built for reading first, rather than gaming or web browsing. While the device is undeniably Samsung, the software still retains some of that Barnes & Noble flair. Anyone who has used the previous Nook tablets will immediately recognize some of the features baked in here. The default homescreen has a widget showing your recently read and recommended titles. Plus Barnes & Noble's Nook store is the primary content source, rather than the Play Store or Samsung Hub. But it's obvious that Sammy is in the driver's seat. Key features like multi-window mode are even included for some multi-tasking (say if you want to tweet a quote from your favorite novel). B&N is pitching it as being "the first full-featured Android tablet designed for reading." Though, the company has said the same about every other Nook tablet.

Developing...

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Sia Chandelier

While David Cameron's broadband filters are doing an admirable job of shielding Britain's young eyes from adult content, the government reckons it can do more. That's why, as from October, it'll treat music videos like movies and begin placing age ratings on them. The Prime Minister announced the new program during a speech yesterday, noting that the government will work with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to "protect [..] children from some of the graphic content music videos" hosted on YouTube and Vevo.

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Chinese phone makers are smacking Samsung and others around right now, but it's still hard to find high-end, non-carrier-branded devices stateside. That said, ZTE -- which has quietly become the world's number five smartphone brand -- has just launched its Nubia 5S mini LTE in the US unlocked for $280. You may be more tempted by a Nexus 5 if specs are your thing, as the Nubia 5s mini is "merely" equipped with a quad-core Snapdragon 400, 2GB RAM, 16GB expandable memory and a 4.7-inch, 720p screen. But ZTE's wooing a younger crowd by touting the ample 5-megapixel front/13-megapixel rear cameras with f/2.2 iris and manual controls, along with the photo effects, LTE (for GSM carriers) and pocketable size. It also vows to repair any damage you inflict for any reason up to 18 months after purchase for $80 -- a boon to any of us who've broken a screen. It's now up on pre-order at Amazon, with shipping set to start on August 27th.

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California Daily Life

Well, this has to be awkward: the first company to bring gigabit internet to Silicon Valley isn't Google, it's AT&T. The telco's ultra-high speed U-verse service will land in Cupertino in a few months, meaning that Apple employees (or any other subscribers in the area) will be able to test AT&T's claim that you can download 25 songs in a single second sometime soon. AT&T's senior VP of U-verse Eric Boyer tells Bloomberg that bringing Gigapower to the city is a "no brainer" considering how intrinsic bandwidth is to the area. For its part, Google has plans to expand Fiber's rollout into nearby San Jose, but when that'll happen is anyone's guess -- maybe this could, ahem, speed that along.

[Image credit: Associated Press]

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Twitter Beats Analysts Projections For 4Q Earnings

After saying it would take a more hands-on approach to bullying, Twitter will now remove images of deceased persons upon family request in "certain circumstances." That follows an atrocious instance of harassment, in which several users sent Zelda Williams fake images of a body in a morgue following the death of her father, Robin Williams. After she decided to leave the social network, Twitter said it "(would) not tolerate abuse of this nature." The new policy states that users can request the removal of such images "from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death" by emailing privacy@twitter.com. However, Twitter added that it would also consider "public interest factors" and may not accommodate all requests.

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LG has just announced a new range of wireless speakers, sound bar and network bridge called Music Flow, and by the looks of it, the company wants a piece of whatever action Sonos is getting. The system even comes with the Music Flow Player app that's a lot like Sonos' controller app, which can access your entire music library, even songs saved on other devices connected to your home WiFi network. Also, the app serves as the command center for all the pieces in your Music Flow network, streams internet radio stations and turns into an ordinary phone player when you step out of the house. Obviously, you can use the app to select among the system's modes, including a multi-room one that plays a single song on all the Music Flow speakers in your house, say, when there's a party.

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Yesterday, Community Health Systems announced that Chinese hackers had managed to steal the healthcare records of 4.5 million of its customers. Now, security firm TrustedSec is claiming that the reason the information was swiped was because of the world-famous Heartbleed vulnerability. TrustedSec founder David Kennedy then told Bloomberg that he learned this fact from three unnamed insiders who told him under the cloak of anonymity. The security expert went on to say that the attack took place roughly a week after Heartbleed was made public, but before the healthcare chain could patch the hole in its system. We don't think we need to tell you what the lesson is, here.

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Imagine a shirt or pants that can detect movement and tell you if that golf swing was weak or that jump shot was a bit lacking. That's the biggest goal of a company called mCube: to have its new and really tiny accelerometer embedded in clothing, though it could obviously be used for sports bands and other devices, as well. At just one millimeter across, the new motion detector measures but less than half of traditional ones. More importantly, it combines the accelerometer component that detects movement and the other that processes signals and data gathered by the first one, which are typically separate. This allows the chip to be power efficient, cheaper and -- according to mCube, at least -- more accurate than alternatives. mCube even believes that the device is effective enough to provide motion detection for super cheap phones without gyroscopes. While the company hasn't announced which devices will carry the product, we'll likely come across one of 'em soon enough, as mCube has already shipped 70 million units to China.

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It turns out Electronic Arts' Access program has at least one high-profile spectator: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. The Assassin's Creed and Watch Dogs company's head says that Ubisoft is keeping a keen eye on what that type of service can offer players, telling Game Informer that he's open to "any way" of giving fans access to Ubisoft's games. However, "it has to work well and be a smooth experience," he says. An Access-like system seems like the natural progression that the French company's been building toward for awhile, albeit slowly, putting various pieces in place and testing them out over time. Given Ubisoft's checkered history with DRM issues and that Uplay Passport system, though, it's probably better if Guillemot lets someone else deal with the growing pains with this time 'round.

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