TechMan Texts: Cable quality's effects debated E-book storyline enthralls


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The plot thickens: Bookseller Barnes & Noble announced recently that it will cease to make its Nook tablets due to declining sales.

Also, the Department of Justice suit against Apple for colluding with publishers to fix the price of e-books has ended, with a decision not expected for several months.

At dispute is the way that e-books are priced. Before the Apple agreement with publishers when the iPad came out, e-books were sold wholesale to the retailer, who set the price. Amazon was underwriting the price of e-books to keep them low in part to sell its Kindle e-book reader.

Apple and the publishers agreed to switch to the agency model in which the publishers set the price (higher). The Department of Justice said this agreement was illegal. It forced Amazon, which controlled 90 percent of the e-book market at that time, to sell e-book at the same price as everyone else.

Because e-book sales are tied to the device used to read them, B&N will likely see a further decline in its market share.

If the judge rules against Apple, Amazon -- with its ability to take a loss on e-books -- will be back in the catbird's seat.

Computing icon's passing: Douglas Engelbart, who died last week at 88, was best known for his "mother of all demos," which electrified the computer world. He showed projects he had been working on at Stanford to about 1,000 computer professionals at the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco.

The demo included many technologies that are common today but were unknown at the time, including the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing and collaborative real-time editing, among others.

Mr. Engelbart's lifelong interest was communication between humans and computers. His granddaughter, Emily Mangan, did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on reddit.com over the weekend in which she said, "He also had a great desire to augment the collective IQ."

Cable talk: The British newspaper The Independent had a recent article on a question that has been debated vociferously: How much should you spend on cables for connecting your video or audio components?

An HDMI cable can cost from several dollars online to almost a hundred dollars at some stores.

Both video and audio cable quality can have an effect on viewing or listening.

TechMan is neither an audio nor videophile. For him, HDMI cables bought on the Web or at discount stores, mostly for under $10, have worked just fine.

The rich get richer: The Wall Street Journal says that the federal government last week reported that the average weekly wage in San Mateo County, Calif., was the highest in the country.

It rose 107 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, to $3,240. That's the equivalent of $168,000 a year, and more than 50 percent higher than the next highest county, New York County (Manhattan), which came in at roughly $110,000 a year.

It seems no coincidence that Facebook is located in San Mateo County and had an IPO that boosted compensation of its employees considerably.

Website of the week: The aforementioned reddit.com/r/ ama, where interesting people, some famous, jump online and solicit questions.

Geek phrase of the week: "Oh my giddy aunt!": a catchphrase used by Patrick Troughton during his time as the second Doctor Who in the long-running series.

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Send comments, contributions, corrections and condemnations to pgtechtexts@gmail.com


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