High-tech heroes and zeros: 2013's best and worst so far

Which tech newsmakers have made the biggest splash so far this year, and which have gone splat? Cringe has a few ideas

It's the midyear point (give or take), which means it's time look back at the first six months of 2013 and say, Is it July already? How the heck did that happen? Am I really that old? And has anyone seen my reading glasses?

It's also a good excuse to look at the people who've made the first half of this year both interesting and exasperating. Here are my picks for the biggest heroes and zeros of 2013, so far.*

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Hero: Ed Snowden
I get it: If Snowden were truly a hero, he might have stayed in the United States when he made his disclosures like other whistleblowers have done, and hoped for public opinion to be on his side. But whatever his motivations, Snowden performed a valuable service by exposing the secret reach of the NSA and the complicity of the courts and Congress in allowing it. By staying in the limelight (and out of Guantanamo Bay) he gave journalists motivation to move the story forward, instead of burying it. The result was a remarkable series of disclosures that built upon what Snowden uncovered. Other whistleblowers have tried and failed to warn us about the insatiable appetite of the industrial surveillance complex; Snowden succeeded. That's heroism in my book.

Zero: Elon Musk
For his attempts to make electric cars sexy and space tourism feasible, the PayPal billionaire and CEO of Tesla Motors is considered a hero by many. But when Musk responded to a negative review of his supercharger stations in the New York Times by calling the reviewer a liar -- complete with selectively chosen data points that demonstrate exactly how creepy Tesla can be if it really wants to -- he ignited an Internet storm. Some praised him for fighting back against a flawed review, others (me included) scolded him for throwing a public tantrum. Your mileage may vary.

Hero: John McAfee
Perhaps the antivirus software legend murdered his neighbor (though my gut tells me he's being set up). Perhaps he's been cooking up some not entirely legal biopharmaceuticals in the jungles of Belize. Perhaps he faked a heart attack to avoid being imprisoned by the authorities. Definitely, he's a few coconuts short of a full piña colada. But McAfee is also the most entertaining high-tech entrepreneur turned bath-salts-huffing yogi on the planet. And this NSFW (trust me) parody video on how to uninstall McAfee AntiVirus is flat out hilarious. When I grow up, I want to be John McAfee.

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