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Technology

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It's been a lively year for social media mavens as they hashtagged their way through the ups, the downs and the downright silly.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Amazon's personal assistant device called Echo was one of the most popular gifts this Christmas. But this week, the device grabbed headlines for another reason: Police in Arkansas are trying to use its data in a murder investigation.

It started with a cup of coffee, or more precisely, a hot beverage. Seven years later came fries, the now infamous eggplant and friends. Sandwich lovers waited for their time to come, while begrudgingly sending another drumstick, wishing it were barbecue.

In San Francisco, companies will pay six-figure salaries to entry-level tech workers from all over the world. So this might come as a surprise: A public university there is laying off some of its own IT staff and sending their jobs to a contractor with headquarters in India.

Until recently, Hank Nguyen's daughter wanted to follow in his footsteps and work in tech. Last spring, she was accepted into the University of California system.

"She was inclined to take computer science and engineering," Nguyen says.

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OK America: What's Another Word For Dongle?

Dec 26, 2016

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Before we end this last All Tech Considered of 2016, we must consider the dongle.

President Obama has promised to take action in response to findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia hacked computers at the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic political groups. And one of Donald Trump's first big decisions as president may be whether to continue down the chosen path.

He is known only as Case 0408. The remains of a middle-aged male immigrant were discovered in Jim Hogg County, Texas, on Nov. 3, 2009. Six belongings are the only things in the universe that may help identify him: a beat-up sneaker, a size L pullover shirt and hoodie, a ring found sewn into the waistband of his pants, a red and black lucha libre wrestler's mask, and a stuffed smiley lion.

Not everyone can be as nimble as Saint Nick traversing wintery rooftops.

That was made apparent to Lou Lentine in 2011. His father was setting up Christmas lights when a ladder slipped out from beneath his feet. "His whole entire side was scratched up," Lentine says.

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ALLISON AUBREY, HOST:

Christmas Eve is a great time to catch a glimpse of Santa, whether it's in real life or in one of these movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN")

Twitter has a theory about Santa Claus — he might be a lot farther south than the North Pole.

The tweet that started it all came from an account dedicated to celebrating "everything NOLA." It featured a photo of Santa, holding a baby as he does, and a caption: "If you're from New Orleans 9/10 you got pic with this Santa."

One look at the responses makes it obvious that the caption was not at all an exaggeration.

Thousands of people have shared and replied to the tweet — as scores of New Orleans natives are posting their pictures on the same Santa's lap.

Ken Yeh thought his school was buying software to keep kids off of certain websites.

What he didn't know was that it could help identify a student who might be considering suicide.

Yeh is the technology director at a private K-12 school near Los Angeles. Three years ago, the school began buying Chromebook laptops for students to use in class and at home. That, Yeh says, raised concerns from parents about what they'd be used for, especially outside of school.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, is warning against in-kind retaliation by the U.S. government for Russian hacking during the presidential election.

In an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Brennan said, "They do some things that are beyond the pale," referencing those who would undermine democratic processes, adding:

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The plan began with an idle thought.

Glancing at a map earlier this month, Owen Delaney realized something funny: Seen from above, the Diana Fountain in London's Bushy Park bears a striking resemblance to the bulbous nose of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — at least, it would if that famous nose of his were blue. At any rate, that fountain-nose would look better if seen in the context of a full face.

So, Delaney decided to do it himself.

By now, you've probably heard about one very real consequence of fake news — the infamous "pizzagate" conspiracy theory that ended with Edgar Welch, 28, firing a real gun inside a real Washington, D.C., pizzeria filled with real people.

Uber will have to park its self-driving cars in California for now.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday said it had revoked the registrations of 16 autonomous vehicles owned by the ride-hailing company.

"We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars," an Uber spokesperson said. "We're now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules."

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, has revealed its most edited articles of the year. Some are completely unsurprising — like the articles about Brexit, the Panama Papers, the Orlando nightclub shooting, and other recent and controversial news topics.

Updated at 6:42 pm to add details of Snapchat's access to location data.

Uber has fixed a problem you didn't know you had. Instead of setting places as the target location, Uber's newest feature will let you set people as the destination.

Instead of typing a location in the "Where to?" box, Uber wants riders to type the name of the friend they are meeting with, and the app would route the ride to them.

Imagine living in a world where you need cash to buy virtually everything — from food to clothes to a new home. Yet you have no cash. The best you can do is stand in line at the bank for hours in the hope of withdrawing a small amount of paper money.

Maybe you could use a smartphone to pay for goods — only you're too poor to afford one.

Welcome to India, land of the cash crunch.

This story was reported by Latino USA in collaboration with All Tech Considered. The audio version of this story aired earlier on Latino USA; it is embedded below.

Micaela Honorato is looking from the sidelines as boys from her after-school program take turns racing their hand-made hovercraft on a dirt field in a city park.

Companies use lots and lots of data, including your daily Web surfing, to help them sell you stuff. They follow you across the Internet with annoying ads, and the data they collect is now essential for their business.

So why aren't the best minds in higher education doing more to tap all that information to improve teaching and learning?

Now, some of them are. Schools such as Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., are wading into the data streams of what's being called "predictive and learning analytics."

Tech toys have become popular holiday gifts. Many are interactive; some even claim educational benefits. But one such toy has privacy advocates very worried this year.

It's called My Friend Cayla. It's a doll and looks pretty much like most dolls do. She is available in various skin tones and hair colors, and according to her website, she is the smartest toy you'll ever have.

But My Friend Cayla also has some issues. She sings, talks and listens — maybe a little too well.

Move over Mariah Carey. There's a new holiday star in town.

Behold, a new Christmas carol for the 2016 holiday season! Have a listen:

Perhaps the flat delivery, the Christmas word salad and the elementary melody tipped you off to the computer-generated nature of this performance.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One tech toy this year has privacy advocates very concerned so much so they filed a complaint with the federal government. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

CAYLA: My name is Cayla. My mom said she named me after her grandmother.

Physicists at Harvard have built a radio receiver out of building blocks the size of two atoms. It is, almost certainly, the tiniest radio receiver in the world.

And since it's a radio, it can play whatever you want to send its way, including Christmas music, as this video by the Harvard team that designed it makes clear:

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