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The hushed whispers surrounding the Federal Trade Commission's supposed investigation into Apple's Beats Music service relaunch have gotten a little louder. From the sounds of it, Cupertino's approached record labels and over a dozen of artists, throwing its weight around as the largest seller of music to snag "limited exclusive" rights and partnerships to pad out a new version of the formerly-owned-by Dr. Dre music service. Bloomberg's sources say that the FTC's still pretty early in the process, but the inquiry revolves around how Apple's dominance in the music sales space, coupled with exclusive deals, could put the likes of Spotify at a disadvantage. It's something other streaming outfits like Tidal don't exactly have to worry about because they don't have iTunes attached to them.

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Peering through the voids of space is a lot like time travelling: the deeper we gaze into a seemingly endless Universe, the further back in time we can see. Now, a team of researchers led by astronomers from Yale University and UC Santa Cruz have announced that they've discovered the most distant galaxy to date. In fact, the galaxy, known a EGS-zs8-1, is so ludicrously far from Earth that light just now reaching us from it is about 13 billion years old. To put that in perspective, the Universe itself is 13.8 billion years. That means this galaxy began forming stars when the Universe was only 5 percent of its current age -- barely 670 million years after big banging into existence.

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Cable Tries Apple Retail Approach To Win Customers

Last May, Cox Communications announced that it would join Google and AT&T in offering residential customers gigabit-fast wired internet service to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Omaha. Today the service, dubbed "G1GABLAST", has finally arrived in Omaha and Las Vegas as well as parts of Orange County, California. "We started in Phoenix last fall, but we have not stopped there," Cox President Pat Esser said in a statement. "We are excited to have the choice of gigabit speeds available to more customers today, and we're adding new building projects every month." To that end, Cox has already increased the speeds of its High Speed Internet (HSI) Essential and HSI Starter plans over the past few months and intends to similarly boost its HSI Ultimate package later this year. The company also announced that communities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Virginia will be offered gigabit speeds by this summer with Cox's entire user base receiving the option by the end of 2016.

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A Daimler-built autonomous truck can now legally operate on the highways of Nevada. Gov. Brian Sandoval has officially granted the "Freightliner Inspiration Truck" a license for road use in the state, making it the first of its kind to navigate public roads in the US. The Inspiration's "Highway Pilot system" is loaded with cameras, radars, other sensors and computer hardware like most autonomous vehicles. However, it's not completely self-driving -- it still needs a human driver behind the wheel.

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Google Maps' Play listing doesn't quite elaborate on what's new with the latest version, but the update's definitely more than just a bunch of bug fixes. Android Police has discovered that the app can now mine your Gmail account for info whenever you search for these particular key phrases: my events, my flights, my reservations and my hotels. "My events" will list your Calendar entries, while the others are pretty self-explanatory. Unfortunately, these key phrases only work for the Android version of Maps at the moment -- the good news is that they're not exclusive to Mountain View's navigation service. You can actually type those key phrases or use them as voice commands on Google search or on Google Now. So long as you're logged into your account on a browser or a relevant app, they'll work perfectly whatever your device or platform is.

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Google removed the quirky puzzle game Threes from the Play store on Tuesday. Its removal was unceremonious and sudden, but that's not exactly why Threes creator Asher Vollmer found the situation frustrating. That came down to two reasons:

  1. A robot informed Vollmer that his game was removed from Google Play in a cold, automated message.
  2. Threes was removed from Google Play because it used "2048" as a keyword -- and 2048 is a blatant, known clone of Threes.

Google -- probably a human there, not a robot -- reinstated Threes after just a few hours offline and following a stream of articles and Twitter activity around its removal. Of course, 2048 remained live on Google Play the entire time, alongside a bunch of other Threes clones. This string of events highlights one of the biggest differences between Google and Apple, and how they approach their app stores. "Apple's policies are preventative and Google's policies are retroactive," Vollmer says. "You can probably figure out which one I prefer."

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Microsoft has lost another legal battle against British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), after a European court found Skype's name to be too similar to the latter's. The judges also ruled that the service's cloud-like logo "would further increase the likelihood of the element 'Sky' being recognized within the word element 'Skype.'" Redmond lost a similar case to the same broadcaster in court years ago, prompting the company to completely change the name of its cloud service from SkyDrive to OneDrive. Fortunately for Microsoft, it doesn't have to change Skype's name this time around -- it merely can't file a trademark registration for the product's name and logo.

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Developer Valve legendarily has a hard time counting to "3" but that doesn't mean getting your hands on some new Portal action is too far out of reach. It just might not be in a place you'd expect. The long-running Zen Pinball series is taking a Newell-blessed trip to the test chambers with the "Aperture Science Heuristic Portal Pinball Device" table. As you might expect, there are plenty of nods to the series, with GLaDOS passive aggressively taunting while Chell jumps through the eponymous ingresses and co-op robots ATLAS and P-Body handling multi-ball duties. It's $2.99 for consoles, Mac and PC and $1.99 on mobile come May 25th.

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Web Work

Orb spider silk, already among the toughest and strongest materials found in nature, could soon get a super-strong nanoscale upgrade. A research team from the University of Trento, Italy recently sprayed 15 Orb-weaving spiders, members of the Pholcidae family, with carbon nanotube or graphene particle solutions. They found that doing so caused some of the spiders to spin even stronger silk than what they normally do. The team administered five spiders with a graphene-water solution and another 10 with a carbon-water mix. While some spiders subsequently spun sub-par silk (and four of them died outright), a few of the carbon-dosed arachnids actually produced strands 3.5 times stronger than the most resilient natural silk we know about.

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