Children Using E-Readers

President Barack Obama announced a new program on Thursday aimed at delivering access for more than 10,000 e-books to financially strapped schoolchildren throughout the United States. The $250 million program will feature titles from numerous publishers including Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette, selected by volunteers from Digital Public Library of America. The New York Public Library has signed on to develop the free app. "It's very different than from our generation," Cecilia Muñoz, Obama's domestic policy adviser, told Reuters. "More and more, you're going to be seeing kids using devices, and what we're doing is making sure that there's more books available on those devices."

As the president's top economic advisor Jeff Zients pointed out to Reuters, research shows that some 80 percent of low-income children are behind the rest of their grade in terms of reading skills. Few of them have books at home. That's why Obama's program will also work with local libraries, boosting their enrollment of local kids in order to provide them with hardware necessary to enjoy these books. Each age-appropriate title will be made available from the publishers' online libraries, though there's no word on whether the e-title will be given away or simply checked out as traditionally lent books are. Still, any excuse to get kids into the library is a good one.

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Xbox 360 Elite Closeup

It turns out that support for bigger external hard drives isn't all that the latest Xbox 360 preview's packing. The surprise features aren't huge by any means but they're pretty self explanatory and as of now should make using the console a bit easier, regardless. Let's dig in. First up we have a view for recent purchases followed by a password reset function, network statistics information and the ability to see your Microsoft account balance right from the system dashboard. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering on a piece-by-piece basis, but taken as a whole they offer a pretty clear explanation for why Redmond is updating the console in the first place: making it easier to go from discs to downloadable gaming. As a reminder, Microsoft's Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb says that if you have any other feature suggestions for the almost decade-old console be sure to hit the Xbox feedback website.

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Apple Watch

After the Internet was awash with reports that tattoos can negatively affect the Apple Watch's heart rate sensor, Apple has confirmed the issue on its website. In a page dedicated to explaining how the Watch captures your vitals, the company notes: "Permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as some tattoos, can also impact heart rate sensor performance," adding that "the ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings."

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For those with long-ish memories, Sony's HMZ series of head-mounted displays were a very rudimentary way to catch movies on a "750-inch screen." Of course, strapping one to your face wasn't a very social way to spend an evening, so you can understand that the device's appeal was a bit limited. So limited, in fact, that the company is now sending the project down the Shinano river on a longboat piled high with firewood. According to Japanese news outfit AV Watch, Sony bosses have decided to devote all of its resources to improving Morpheus, the PlayStation-branded virtual reality headset, as well as the company's take on Google Glass.

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Microsoft's Hololens

Microsoft surprised many when it announced it had acquired Mojang, maker of the hit game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. What could a company specializing in operating systems, business software and consoles do with an already popular sandbox game primarily enjoyed by children? The game's creator, Markus "Notch" Persson, certainly helped expedite the sale, but Microsoft had something else in its arsenal that was also perfectly suited to the game: HoloLens.

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Russian defense contractor Admiralty Shipyards launched the latest of its ultra-modern Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines earlier this week. Dubbed the Krasnodar, this sub is the third of six its class. These vessels are primarily designed to hunt surface ships and other subs in littoral waters. They can't dive as deep or stay submerged as long as either modern nuclear subs or the Kilo-class submarines they're meant to replace. However, the Varshavyankas are armed to the gills with 18 torpedoes and eight surface-to-air Club missiles, according to reports from Russia Today. What's more, when running silent, the Krasnodar and its ilk are nearly impossible to detect acoustically, hence their NATO callsign "Black Hole." The first two Varshavyanka-class submarines, the Novorossiysk and the Rostov-on-Don, are currently undergoing deep-water testing and are expected to begin service to the Black Sea Fleet by the end of the year. There are currently no public estimates as to when the Krasnodar will join them.

[Image credit: Admiralty Shipyards]

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NBA All-Star Game 2015

Death's icy grip hit more than just Secret this week; Grooveshark is shutting down too. Last year, judges found the music streaming service guilty of mass copyright infringement for hosting illegal uploads of songs from Jay-Z, Madonna and others. As Recode notes, however, something a little more recent was the reason behind the actual closure. Escape Media (Grooveshark's owner) had a few options in court with Universal Music Group, Sony Music and Warner Music Group last week: either pay a possible maximum of $736 million in fines or accept a settlement with record labels to hand over its website, apps and patents.

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A number of internet organizations and even the government want websites to use encryption by default in the future, and from the sound of it, Mozilla shares their view. The non-profit has announced that it plans to limit the capabilities of "the non-secure web" (aka websites that don't use HTTPS), in order to encourage a more widespread use of encryption. Mozilla has a two-element approach in place, one of which is making all new features of the Firefox browser and its other products available only to secure websites when we reach a certain date. The org will consult its users -- just like it did before it ultimately decided it wants to stop supporting unencrypted sites in the long run -- not only to pinpoint that date, but also to decide what features are considered "new" by that time.

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Our lust for electricity is insatiable. At night we connect a hydra of wires to our phones, computers, smartwatches and tablets. They sip at the electrons being pumped into our homes, filling their batteries to be ready for another day without being tethered to a wall. Tesla wants your house to be ready. Ready for power outages and heat waves. The company says its Powerwall home battery system can untether your home from the power grid for a few hours, which might not sound like much, but could have huge implications for the way we power our lives.

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