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While Hitchbot was bumming rides across Canada and Germany, its sibling kulturBot remained at home to keep their "parents" company. Now kulturBot is going on an adventure of its own, traveling with musicians, poets and other artistic types aboard the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour. See, it might be made out of a pasta strainer and a vacuum, but it will fit right in with the other passengers -- after all, the little machine is a wordsmith itself. Its creators, Dr. David Harris and Dr. Frauke Zeller, designed kulturBot to write poetry using words and phrases taken from the diaries of Canadian geographer and fur trader David Thompson.

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Tulips on the White House lawn

If you've been wondering how Russian cyberattackers could compromise the White House and other high-profile targets, the security researchers at FireEye have an answer. They've determined that APT28, a politically-motivated Russian hacking group, used unpatched exploits in Flash Player and Windows in a series of assaults against the US government on April 13th. Patches for both flaws are either ready or on the way, but the vulnerabilities reinforce beliefs that APT28 is very skilled -- less experienced groups would use off-the-shelf code.

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Marlins vs. Mets

You may like Verizon's more flexible FiOS TV packages, but ESPN sure doesn't. The Disney-owned sports network claims that these offerings break contracts which prevent carriers from putting ESPN and ESPN2 into a separate sports package -- typically, they have to be included with other Disney channels. The company isn't directly accusing Verizon of going rogue, but a Recode source claims that the telecom didn't ask for permission. While Verizon tells the Wall Street Journal that it crafted the packages to avoid trouble, the insider says that the provider believed its existing deals would let it test these smaller bundles without a conflict. Clearly, ESPN would beg to differ.

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WESTMINSTER, COLORADO/U.S.A. - MARCH 20, 2013: Xfinity Comcast service van parked on the street in front of a customers home. Th

Comcast is bringing its twice-as-fast-as-Google-Fiber internet service to northern California. Potential customers will need installation of professional-grade equipment to access it and, you'll have to be near its fiber network -- Fresno, Monterey, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area are among the places on the list -- to qualify. That's not all, either. Statewide, it's rolling out a 250 Mbps "Extreme 250" speed tier for cable internet customers. The telecom giant's also boosting speeds on its existing tiers as well, with lower priced-plans getting jumps from 25 to 45 Mbps depending on the package at no added cost. Perhaps the best news about all this is that you won't have to wait too much longer for it all to take effect. Comcast says it'll start the cable internet upgrades in May with continued rollouts taking place the rest of the year, while the 2Gbps fiber service starts rolling out in June. And just like that, there's another gigabit competitor in Google HQ's vicinity with Fiber nowhere in sight.

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

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Maps on Windows 10 for phones

To put it mildly, Windows Phone's official mapping options are... basic. However, Microsoft is promising a better experience with the mobile Maps app in Windows 10. Get a recent preview version of Windows 10 and you'll see a map interface that is not only decidedly more modern-looking, but ties in more closely with Bing and rolls in some Here Maps features. You'll get the usual photos, reviews and directions (including Here's in-car navigation), but you'll also have an easier time finding things to do. You can specify that you're looking for something to eat near your hotel, for instance, and book the table reservation on the spot. This upgrade probably won't get you to switch phone platforms, but it's a big deal if you're a Windows phone fan who'd like to get Microsoft's best mapping services in a single app.

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In case you wanted another behind-the-scenes look at how Google's internet-by-balloon service is doing, now is your chance. The Project Loon team posted a new video showing everything from how it manages its balloon fleet, the balloon creation process, their partnership with local LTE network providers abroad and a few other aspects of the initiative as well. For example, the team is keeping the airborne-internet vessels afloat for up to 100 days at a time now, can build balloons in hours instead of days, and can launch many dozens of balloon every day instead of just a single one. Nearly two years after the project's launch, it's gone from "will it work?" to being presented as something that will work. With thousands of balloons aloft, it can push signal into areas that can't easily get internet service in other ways. As is typical with these status updates, it's slickly produced and has a handful of whimsical animations and music to boot -- check it out after the break.

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Don't look now, but you may soon have more options for mobile internet access beyond the usual wireless carriers. The FCC has voted in favor of rules that not only make a wide 100MHz slice of 3.5GHz spectrum available for mobile data, but makes that data more accessible. Rather than simply parcel out the airwaves to the highest bidders (which are usually telecoms), the FCC has a "General Authorized Access" tier that lets any device use these frequencies, similar to WiFi's license-free scheme. The move would still let conventional carriers bolster their networks, but it also paves the way for cheap or free over-the-air broadband. Companies ranging from Google to Verizon are interested, so you should expect an eclectic mix of services once the devices are ready.

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As curious creatures, we attempt to understand the world around us in many ways and nowadays that usually boils down to big data visualization. Whether we're creating models of large-scale systems or breaking down reality into wireframes and exposing the digital bones beneath, the data-rich internet and open-source tools are helping people map and explore the world in new ways. People are leveraging technology to make their voices heard in political realms and using digital expression to bypass physical conflict. Indeed, in this digital age, the lines between life and art are becoming blurred. Don't believe us? Then explore the gallery below for just a few examples.

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Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

BRITAIN-MUSIC-VINYL

Record Store Day and the Ambivalent Branding of Independence
by Eric Harvey
Pitchfork

Record Store Day celebrates the culture of independent record shops each spring. Today marks the eighth annual holiday for vinyl collectors and music lovers, but the event is becoming packed with more big names each year. Whether it's Jack White's world record or releases from Metallica or Foo Fighters, celebrities are now just as much a part of the festivities, and distributors seem to be favoring bigger shops over smaller, local spots.

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Several companies are working on eye-tracking tech as a way to navigate devices. A team of MIT researchers, however, have their eyes set on another body part: the thumbnail. Graduate students Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao and Artem Dementyev are developing a tiny trackpad that fits over your thumbnail. They're calling it NailO, and it was inspired by colorful nail stickers popular in Kao's native Taiwan and many other Asian countries. The duo envisions NailO to be used in situations where both your hands are occupied -- for instance, you can use it to scroll down a website page to check recipes while cooking. They also think it could be used to control other wearables, such as smart jewelry.

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