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Facebook's new alert system warned the US about Iranian hackers

How do you think the US would find out about a state-sponsored hack from Iran? Sophisticated security software? Surveillance? Nope -- Facebook. According to the New York Times, State Department officials were tipped off about an Iranian hacking campaign thanks to Facebook implementing a government attack alert system just last month. They knew something was up when they got messages about being the victims of "state-sponsored actors." Reportedly, the cyberattackers were hoping to use the social networking accounts of younger government staff to compromise other, more prominent staffers in the government division.

'Sesame Street' begins its first HBO season on January 16th, 2016

You won't have too much longer to wait to see how HBO handles Sesame Street. The network says it's launching the 46th season of the kids' show on January 16th, 2016 at 9AM (Eastern and Pacific). You'll have streaming access to five years' worth of episodes on both HBO Go and HBO Now, too. Just be prepared for a different experience than you remember from your childhood. Sesame Street pisodes will run 30 minutes instead of a full hour (ostensibly to help kids "focus"), and there are "updates" to both the show's iconic opening as well as the homes of its best-known characters.

When Samsung and Oculus debuted their Gear VR headset almost a year ago, the companies made it clear the device wasn't yet ready for the masses. Billed as "Innovator Edition" models, the original Gear VRs were intended mainly for early adopters. They only fitted a limited number of phones -- the original was designed just for the Note 4; the second for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge -- and were also quite pricey at $200 per headset. Just last week, however, the two companies released the first-ever consumer-ready version of the Gear VR. It's smaller, lighter, cheaper (only $99) and is compatible with more phones (the Note 5, S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+). But, more importantly, its content library has exploded, with more VR apps and games than ever before. Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, and there's no better way to get started than with the new Gear VR.

US regulators delay law that will make electric cars more noisy

Electric cars are famous for how quiet they are compared to regular gas-guzzlers. This is good for noise pollution, bad for pedestrians -- especially the visually impaired. Manufacturers are well aware of the issue, and solutions like Toyota's proximity notification system are becoming more popular. What's not in place, yet, is industry-wide legislation to ensure all EVs and Hybrids have such a safety feature built-in. A law requiring cars have automatic audible alerts for pedestrians proposed in 2013 is in process, but Reuters reports the U.S. Department of Transportation that's just been delayed until at least March next year -- it was originally planned to come in to action this fall. The law would cost automakers an estimated $23-million in the first year to implement.

Wu-Tang Clan sells its one-of-a-kind 'Shaolin' album for millions

Remember Wu-Tang Clan's Once Upon a Time In Shaolin album? The group spent nine years recording 31 tracks for a special LP, then decided to sell just one copy of it -- for a very high price, of course. It was finally purchased by a private American collector for "millions," according to Forbes. The deal was completed in May, but the contract was finalized only recently. The buyer will get to listen to the album now, but won't have the right to release it publicly for another 88 years. "The Wu-Tang Clan has always been driven by innovation, and this marks another moment in musical history," said co-founder RZA. He added that "we hoped that this concept would inspire debate and new ways of seeing creativity."

'Retro City Rampage' is getting a '16-bit' sequel

Retro City Rampage is getting a sequel named Shakedown Hawaii. Like RCR, Shakedown is a top-down action game in the same vein as the original Grand Theft Auto. The new game is set 30 years after RCR and promises a large open world to explore. It also swaps in "16-bit" graphics in place of the original's "8-bit" look, and adds destructible environments to the mix. It's been confirmed for launch on PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Developer Vblank says this isn't a Sony console exclusive per se, but it's not going for an Xbox One launch as RCR hasn't been ported to Microsoft's machine, making development more complex. It'll also come to "at least one Nintendo platform" at some point. Vblank tells Polygon that a 3DS release is being targeted, and it's waiting to hear more about Nintendo's next-gen "NX" console before it makes a decision on a port.

Australia's using drones to protect its coasts from sharks

While shark attacks are rare in Australia, every year a handful of people lose their lives while swimming off the country's coastlines. New South Wales (NSW) government officials know there is no easy way to reduce risks, but have committed to spending AU$16 million ($11.6 million) on a new "shark strategy," which includes drone patrols and deploying GPS technology to make its beaches safer. As part of the drone trial starting today, operators will send out drones off the coast of Coffs Harbour (located midway between Sydney and Brisbane), which will feed back live footage of any marine life swimming in shallow water and let them alert swimmers and surfers of any risks in the area.

Temp tech tattoos can monitor your health and location

Chaotic Moon, a start-up known for conjuring fun projects like a shark-punching virtual game, has a wide range of applications in mind for the temporary tattoo technology it's developing. Called "Tech Tats," they're quite literally stick-on tattoos that look a bit embossed against the skin, since they contain electronic components, including a microcontroller and LED lights. Company CEO Ben Lamm called them "the new wearable" during his TechCrunch interview, pointing out that they can be a slightly more permanent version of Fitbit and other fitness trackers. They can, for instance, detect if you're stressed, monitor your body temp, blood pressure and heart rate, and then transmit all those data through their electroconductive paint.

Google's fast mobile pages coming (with ads) in early 2016

Google revealed the "AMP" endeavor last month to accelerate mobile page-loading times, the slowness of which is a huge user bone of contention. It now says the fast-loading mobile pages will hit search results by early next year, and also gave more details about the project's raison d'etre: ads. The list of partners supporting the effort include its own AdSense, Outbrain and AOL, Engadget's parent company. The AMP project will cut mobile data use and wait times, but Google's not just being altruistic -- it's trying to curb ad-blockers, which heavily impact the company's ad revenue. Apple recently gave ad-blockers a big boost when it revealed it would support them for Safari on iOS 9.

Apple buys motion-capture company that worked on 'Star Wars'

Apple's latest startup pickup is Faceshift, a company that specializes in facial motion capture -- often doing it without any need for physical "markers" on the model's face. Cupertino confirmed the deal to Techcrunch, which also discovered that several Faceshift employees are already working for Apple in Europe. While a lot of Faceshift's technical demos have focused on real-time animation based on camera-based motion capture, it also works on improving facial CGI animation in movies and other media. (That's where the Star Wars connection comes in.) It's a bit of a reach to figure out exactly how the startup's work will dovetail into Apple's machinations for the future -- but at least it's something a little more interesting than another map company.

Black Friday foot traffic doesn't peak when you think it does

The day that practically every retail worker loathes with a passion is almost upon us: Black Friday. To get an idea of just how much of a nightmare shopping is on the day after Thanksgiving, Google turned to foot traffic data based on aggregated, anonymized mobile location history info gathered last year. Perhaps most surprising is that stores apparently aren't at their busiest during doorbuster deals in the wee hours, but between 2PM and 4PM -- the early-bird deals are actually when store traffic is at its lowest across the board. What's more, only certain types of stores see their traffic at their highest on that first shopping day of the holiday season: consumer electronics and cellphone stores. Malls, department stores and "superstores/discount stores" (likely places akin to Costco and Sam's Club)? They're typically busiest the last Saturday before Christmas.

Sony PlayStation 4 sales speed past 30 million

In just over two years Sony's sold over 30 million PlayStation 4s. That tally was 20.2 million in March, and now ahead of the busy holiday shopping season we have word from the Japanese tech giant that it's sold through more than 30.2 million consoles to some 124 countries and regions globally. That's roughly 1.25 million consoles per month since then, as of November 22nd. Impressive! Of course, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One was the number one-selling console for October, and that Halo 5 was the best selling game last month, but as per usual didn't give out any hard numbers.

Officials link hacker to theft of 1.2 billion log-in credentials

The FBI is linking a hacker only known by the moniker "mr. grey" to a whopping 1.2 billion stolen internet credentials after finding his Russian email address in the evidence it gathered. It's unclear if he obtained all those by himself, though, or if he's even just a single person or a group of people operating under one name. Either way, if there were a contest for hackers, mr. grey would've won it by now, as this is apparently the biggest collection of stolen log-in details the FBI has investigated thus far. Reuters says that info came from the court documents the feds submitted to support its search warrant request in 2014. The authorities got their tip from cybersecurity firm Hold Security, which found out that a Russian hacking group called CyberVor has stolen 1.2 billion log-in details and over 500 million email addresses.

Hackers have been breaking through a lot of government agency's defenses these past years, and DARPA thinks it's high time to do something about it. Pentagon's mad science division has launched a new program called Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization (RADICS), which aims to develop innovative technologies that can quickly detect and respond to cyber attacks. Not just any cyber attacks, though: RADICS was specifically created to deflect security threats on critical infrastructures in the US, especially those that are vital to the Department of Defense's missions. The agency likely wants to make sure the government can quickly detect and fight off terrorists and/or hackers trying to switch off the country's electricity or transportation systems.

FCC hires a privacy guru to help lead its telecom investigations

If you want proof that the Federal Communications Commission is getting serious about privacy, you only need to look at its latest recruit. The agency has hired Jonathan Mayer, one of the masterminds behind Do Not Track browsing, as the chief technologist for its Enforcement Bureau. He'll help lead investigations into any shady behavior from telecoms and TV providers, particularly if they run afoul of your privacy or security.

Volkswagen is issuing AR glasses as standard factory equipment

Following a successful 3-month pilot program at its Wolfsburg plant, Volkswagen announced on Tuesday that it will begin issuing 3D smart glasses to its plant logistics personnel. These glasses, which display information like bin locations and part numbers directly in the user's line of sight, should help speed up order picking. That is, they'll tell plant employees if the parts they're holding are the parts they actually need. And to keep the process as hands-free as possible, a camera embedded in the specs will double as a barcode scanner.

NASA's depiction of comets swarming around a star

Occam's Razor apparently holds true everywhere, even in the farthest reaches of space. While researchers speculated that star KIC 8462852's mysterious dimming might be the result of alien megastructures, NASA is about to publish evidence supporting the theory that it's really just a swarm of comets. Based on the strange dimming and the moderate infrared light levels, you may be looking at a pack of cold comets on a "very long, eccentric" orbit. If so, the strange signatures over the years reflect different-size comets passing around the star.

TiVo Bolt screenshot showing "SkipMode" ad-skipping prompt

It looks like TiVo Roamio owners won't need to buy an upgraded box for the new SkipMode feature. Zatz Not Funny points out info on TiVo's website promising SkipMode will come to older Roamio DVRs on December 10th, which the company confirmed in a statement to Engadget. Starting today, a software update is going out that enabled QuickMode sped-up viewing on the Roamio. Meanwhile, a limited test will only let older boxes in the Bay Area and Chicago access SkipMode, for now (it's available nationwide on the Bolt). In case you're not familiar, SkipMode lets users bypass ad breaks on selected shows (prime time broadcasts on certain national networks) just by pressing the green button on their remote. At least so far, it has avoided any legal issues seen by Dish Network's Hopper technology, and hopefully will continue to work as advertised. When I reviewed the Bolt, I found my favorite way to use it was skipping any stray seconds recorded before a show starts, so I could leap to the actual beginning.

Twitter's IPO Filing Implies $12.8 Billion Value Amid Growth

Twitter announced the rollout of full-screen video playback for its Twitter Kit on Tuesday. That means users will be able to view videos and animated gifs within Twitter without having to pop open a new window or launch the Twitter app -- everything is handled within the running app itself. The feature is currently only available for apps running Twitter Kit for iOS8+ but the company is also reportedly releasing an Android version "shortly."

[Image Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]