In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on making Valentine’s Day memorable using apps, the continuing commitment to empowering youth through YouthSpark initiatives and tips to stay safer online.

The international day of love celebration known as Valentine’s Day inspired Bing, Windows 8.1, the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store to play Cupid. Bing shared l’amour-related search trends, including most romantic cities, as well as hottest dating sites and couples. Bing also showed us how the Bing Food & Drink app and Bing Boards could elevate you to be the master of romance. Windows 8.1 can also help plan the perfect experience with a variety of projects and apps at the ready for romance. Over in the Windows Store, the Valentine’s Day Collection gave us Valentine Cards, Urbanspoon, Cocktail Flow and Allrecipes as more resources to wow sweethearts near and far. If you’re rolling solo this Valentine’s Day, Match.com offers a free service trial. And if you’re still looking for help on the go, you’re in luck. In the Windows Phone Store, the Valentine’s Day Collection gathered together apps like 101 Love Msgsto help you express your love with the press of a button.

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Through YouthSpark, Microsoft continued to empower youth through technology, key events, programs and competitions. The company launched a three-year commitment as co-title sponsors of Free the Children’s signature We Day event and We Act program in Seattle and in San Francisco. And, Challenge for Change is back for a second year, tapping into the next generation of big ideas. Competitors ages 18-25 are encouraged to submit an idea designed to spark change for good in their community or around the world for a chance to win prizes. Entries will be accepted through March 5.

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To mark Safer Internet Day (SID) 2014, Microsoft asks people to “Do 1 Thing” to stay safer online and to make that one thing part of their daily digital routines. As part of this campaign, Microsoft launched a new interactive website Safer Online, where individuals can share their “Do1Thing” promise; learn what others are doing to help protect themselves online, and get instant tips to enhance and better protect their digital lifestyles.

The general availability of Power BI for Office 365 was one of several developments that showed the impact Microsoft technology is making with businesses around the world. Telefónica chose Lync as the centerpiece of its unified communications strategy. It’s the world’s fifth-largest mobile provider and has 140,000 employees who speak six languages and work from 26 countries. At the Singapore Airshow this week, Microsoft shared how its technologies help airlines deliver better in-flight entertainment for passengers, give airlines better situational awareness through real-time access to crucial information such as weather and provide in-flight crews with feature-rich applications for sales and services to passengers. Microsoft is also helping airline pilots go paperless with apps and Surface 2, which passed Federal Aviation Administration authorization as an electronic flight bag.

In the Xbox universe, limited time sales, new exclusives and “Titantfall” news set players’ minds abuzz. If you’ve always wanted to check out the latest entertainment experiences on Xbox 360, now is your chance, writes Larry Hryb: Xbox Live Gold member benefits for Xbox 360 will be free for all Xbox Live subscribers from Feb. 14-16 in the U.S. and Canada. “During this free Gold weekend, all Xbox Live entertainment apps and online multiplayer gaming will be available for free,” says Larry Hryb (aka Major Nelson). There are also games and add-on deals in the Xbox Games Store, good through Feb. 17, which include “NBA 2K14” and “Fable II,” both on demand for Xbox 360. While the Winter Games continue in Sochi, you might already be thinking of more warm weather sports. For you, “Kinect Sports Rivals” will be available exclusively on Xbox One April 8 in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and April 11 in Europe. New sports include climbing, wake racing and target shooting, as well as fan favorites soccer, tennis and bowling. As the gaming world gears up for the release of “Titanfall” in March, the Xbox Wire team presents a video of Respawn team members looking back at their journey over the last few years, and you can also check out the early reviews of “Titanfall” beta. Fans of “Dead Rising 3” can do the zombie dance with the release of the new downloadable episode “Fallen Angel”, which reveals a new character. There’s also the global launch of “World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition” with new features. To enhance play on those and other games, the Xbox One Stereo Headset and the Stereo Headset Adapter are due out worldwide in early March. Also that month, expect Xbox One multiplayer and party updates.

Apps and games in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store offer an abundance of ways to have fun and stay informed – and you can enjoy them all on the new Nokia Lumia Icon. In the Windows Store, “Glacier Blast,” “Medieval Apocalypse” and the App of the Week: “World at Arms” can all make time pass much more quickly, while Staff App Picks Urbanspoon and Watch ABC can give you food pointers and catch you up on favorite shows. WatchESPN keeps you current on sports. In the Windows Phone Store, the Red Stripe Deals collection gives you plenty of options for play and work, while the “Subway Surfers” update takes players to Seoul. The WeatherBug app, which already gives you access to the world’s largest network of weather sensors for super-accurate forecasts, now gives you Spark Alerts that turn your Windows Phone device into a personal lightning detector. Use the free Amtrak and Instagram BETA apps for a chance to win a Nokia Lumia Windows Phone. Speaking of phones, the new Nokia Lumia Icontakes high definition video to the next level for smartphone users.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we went hands on with 3D printing with Windows 8.1.

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Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. Have a happy Valentine’s Day (or weekend!) and see you next week.

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff