CISPA: A Successor to the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) Bill

If you’ll recall the debate surrounding the failed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill; which essentially pitted those advocating giving the federal government the broad powers outlined in the bill to combat online piracy at the expense of the privacy rights of citizens, versus people like the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association that believed that act, in fact, violated the civil rights of individuals…then you might want to take a look at some articles  on a succeeding bill also created to fight online piracy which is currently before Congress. The new bill is called CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and it too, if passed, would give the government very broad powers to obtain the Internet related records of individuals.

Here are three links to articles that discuss this subject:

The first is from CNET and is titled How CISPA Would Affect You (Faq):

The second, titled House Votes to Improve Cyber Hacking Bill is from the New York Times:

And the third is from the tech site Mashable and is titled Where CISPA’s Going: Everything You Need To Know:

Linda R.

Neat Garry Marshall Interview on NPR Weekend Edition

Happy weekend everyone! This is one of those blog postings that is going wildly off our tech topic and onto a fun popular culture topic instead. This weekend NPR has a neat nine minute interview with director Garry Marshall on Weekend Edition.

For anyone trying to recall who Garry Marshall is or scratching their head in wonder because they’ve never heard of him…those of us above a certain age will probably find his name familiar and remember him or his work. He is a director who is well know for producing a number of TV comedies and movies including Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork & Mindy. And he is also the brother of director and actress Penny Marshall who starred in the series Laverne and Shirley.

Here’s the link to the NPR article/podcast page – enjoy!

The Stormy World of E-Books From Tea Cup To Hurricane in Five Years

The growing popularity of E-Books today can be seen in E-Book sales which are way, way up and the big brouhaha involving the Big Six Publishers, Apple and Amazon.  I’m sure everyone has heard of or read a story or two about the anti-trust suit the U. S. Justice Department has filed against Apple and some of the “Big Six” Publishers alleging that they colluded to raise the price of E-Books via something called “The Agency Model.”  Just a little bit of related background information regarding the situation! The term the “Big Six” Publishers refers, collectively, to the six largest traditional publishing houses in the U.S.: Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hatchette and Random House.  The DOJ suit has been filed against Apple and all of the Big Six Publishers sans Random House.  And the Agency Model is a departure from the traditional “Whole Sale” method of selling print books which allows book stores to purchase books from publishers and then set the sale price of the books – that is the bookstores set the price consumers actually pay for the books they sell. In contrast, the Agency Model has the publishers offering their E-Books for sale to booksellers at a set price and telling those booksellers that if they wish to sell their E-Books they have to agree to sell them at the price the publishers dictate or they cannot sell them.

Notably, three of the Big Six Publishers named in the suit, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan & HarperCollins have already settled the matter with DOJ. And with this story, like most stories, there are many sides to the situation. Apple and the Big Five Publishers involved in the suit are loudly proclaiming that A. They have not colluded to raise the price of E-Books and that B. The Agency Model is the best defense against the proverbial 300 pound gorilla in the room – the retail giant Amazon. Amazon introduced the first wildly successful E-Reader the Kindle in 2007. Amazon is seen as a big threat by the publishers because they initially used the “Whole Sale” model of selling E-Books and sold them at cost, or in some cases under cost, in order to spur sales of its Kindle E-Readers. And all of that was one thing in 2007 when E-Book sales accounted for less than 1% of the entire book market. However, this year E-Books sales are expected to rise to account for 40% of the entire book market thus the brouhaha between the DOJ, Apple, The Big Six Publishers and Amazon – as any issue over E-Books and E-Book prices isn’t about just a little bit of money now — it is about a lot of money. So the issue of E-Books and what is the best business model to use to benefit publishers, authors and customers has gone in a scant five years from being a storm in a tea cup to a major league hurricane. With that in mind another side of the E-Book equation, and one that the Big Six Publishers aren’t expounding loudly, is the fact A. their old print based business model is out of date and on the road towards becoming obsolete and B. They are in large part to blame for the partial monopoly they say Amazon has had in selling E-Books due to the DRM software they insist that any bookseller selling their E-Books incorporate into those E-Books. That the old print based way of doing business in the publishing world is changing isn’t surprising as the transformation of the preferred reading format from print to digital is indeed revolutionary – after all it has been more than five hundred years since Gutenberg perfected his printing press and the written word went from truly being written on parchment to being printed on paper and bound in printed books. So the fact that E-Books are taking off as a format and changing the way people read and thus purchase reading material is bound to upset the traditional way publishers have done business in the five hundred year print era. And DRM is, as a Gigaom article well stated late last year, a stick the publishers gave Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony and other E-Book sellers to beat them with. This is because the restrictive DRM software locks customers into an E-Book platform. What that means in plain American English is that if you own a Kindle or a Nook and buy E-Books for it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble you cannot read those E-Books on other devices – you can’t, for example, buy E-Books for your Kindle and then read those E-Books on your Nook or vice versa. So if you bought a Kindle in 2007 and have 45 E-Book on it you’re going to be hesitant to buy the new Glowlight Nook because you can’t transfer the E-Books you purchased from Amazon to your new Nook. And likewise if you bought a Nook and have purchased 30 E-Books for it and then decide you’d like to upgrade to a Kindle Fire you can’t read the Nook Books you previously purchased on your Kindle Fire. Thus the publishers have indeed given the E-Book sellers a stick to beat them with because most people are going to stick with buying E-Books from the company they started buying E-Books from to begin with so they can access all the E-Books they previously purchased.

And I will admit two things in relation; firstly, that if you have a tablet like the iPad you can download the Amazon and Barnes & Noble apps to it and access E-Books purchased through either store via that tablet through the appropriate app. But tablets cost more than dedicated E-Readers and you can’t access all E-Books from all vendors on all tablets. For example, the first e-reader I purchased was a Sony Reader and I have all the pre-2010 Dresden Files E-Books on it – I bought them but I can’t access them on my iPad because there isn’t a Sony Reader app for iPad.  And secondly, that there is software that allows you to unlock the DRM software and thus access the E-Books you’ve purchased so you can read them on any device you own; however, that is a legal grey area as according to the users agreements for E-Books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others you aren’t really buying an E-Book when you click that “Buy” button – you are instead buying a license to it – so technically you are not supposed to unlock the restrictive DRM software so you can read your Kindle Books on your Nook or your Nook Books on your Kindle.

And now for the links! You knew there’d be some for further reading – and here they are:

Here’s a link to a Chicago Tribune Editorial, titled Mystery solved! Artificially raising e-book prices simply to preserve an outdated business model is bad for the publishing business and readers that discusses the issues of the changing publishing landscape:,0,1423394.story

Here’s a link to a Huffington Post article, titled The Big Six Book Publishers Need to Innovate Like the Good Americans That They Are that in essence discusses how publishers need to change and offer creative and innovative E-Books to keep pace with the changing technology and consumer demands:

Here’s a link to a Paid Content article, titled “Why I break DRM on e-books”: A publishing exec speaks out, which relays the experience of a publishing executive who thinks publishers should discontinue the restrictive practice of creating E-Books in the DRM format:

Here’s a link to a PEW Research article titled The Rise of E-Reading which discusses the growing popularity of E-Books and the corresponding rise in E-Book sales:

And as a final thought here’s a link to the December 2011 gigaom article titled How publishers gave Amazon a stick to beat them with which also discussed how the use of DRM software has backfired on publishers:

Linda R. 

Newsy For Roku, New Movie Theater Sound System & The New B&N Nook

Newsy App For Roku: The folks that put out the Newsy app, and maintain the corresponding Newsy website, have now come out with an app for the Roku media player. For those of you not familiar with Newsy it is a news app that won the 2011 Appy Award for best News App, that offers video news stories cited from multiple sources. The app is free and already available for both Apple and Android devices. And now you can get one for your Roku player and watch the news stories in a great variety of categories on that large HDTV in your living room.

It is a fun news app – I tried it out on my Roku player last night!

And here’s a link to a WebProNews article on the subject:

New Movie Theater Sound System: In the near future when you go to the movies and the characters on the screen experience an earthquake or a thunderstorm you’ll be able to experience them too! You’ll be able to feel the vibrations of the earthquake or thunderstorm courtesy of a new Doby sound system called Doby Atmos.

So we can look forward to even more realistic movie experiences in the near future!

Here’s a link to a New York Times Bits article on the subject:


New Barnes & Noble Glowlight Nook: I already mentioned the new Glowlight Nook in this blog last week. However, notable New York Times tech columnist David Pogue has written an article, titled New E-Book Reader Sheds Light on Every Page, which praises the new Nook as the first E-Ink reader with a built in illumination feature so I thought I’d share the link to his article:


Linda R.

Great Adventure Travel & Scenic Photography iPad Apps

If you like to travel and like scenic photographs you should check out the new iPad apps created by Fotopedia. Fotopedia is a company created by a long time Steve Jobs associate named Jean-Marie Hullot. Mr. Hullot credits the late Mr. Jobs with instilling in him an attention-to-detail and make-the-product-as-perfect-as-it –can possibly be type of attitude. And that quest for perfection shows in the visually stunning Fotopedia apps for iPad. The apps range from one on the National Parks, to ones on Paris, Japan and even covering Wild Friends for those who enjoy seeing photos of animals in their natural settings. These apps are all free from the App Store and you really should check them out as they are visually stunning. In fact the apps look so good they just might inspire you to actually take a trip as they feature helpful travel planning tips for each location they cover as well as gorgeous photos.

The New York Times Bits Blog has an article on these visually sumptuous apps today, here’s the link:

Linda R. 

DVDs Are On The Way Out & Moms Are Tech Wizards!

DVDs Are On The Way Out: The number of media formats seen in the last forty years boggles the mind! I can recall using 8-track tapes in cars, playing analog tapes on my Walkman and playing Star Trek laser discs in my laser disc player. And just as Betmax and VHS tapes made way for DVDs to become the most popular video format; now the digital video format is now gaining ground towards becoming the next dominant media format.  You can stream and/or download music, E-Books and videos already from a variety of devices; however, streaming TV shows and movies to that big screen TV in your living room – that is what is gaining traction now. Most new TVs and DVD players even come with built in streaming capabilities. And if you don’t want to buy a new TV you can always buy a small media streaming box like the Roku Player, Apple TV, Boxee Box or Google TV and connect it to your TV and voila! You’re streaming the next season of Downton Abbey to your TV and watching it whenever it is convenient to you!

Here’s a link to a WebProNews article on the growing popularity of streaming video:

Moms Are Tech Wizards! According to a recent Wall Street Journal Market Watch article Moms are the most tech savvy persons, on average, in any family. They tend to be the ones who keep up on all the latest and greatest gadgets and tech upgrades so they can assist their individual family members in keeping up with the new technology too. And I’m sure the new streaming options for games and video are necessary things for Moms with tech savvy kids to know all the ins and outs of!

Here’s a link to the mentioned MarketWatch article that discusses this subject in more depth:


Have a great weekend everyone!

Linda R.

Online Education

The Internet has and continues to transform how people live across the globe as it offers us access to information and the ability to connect to other people living thousands or millions of miles away. And this increasing connectivity, that is the ability to access information put online by people in other countries and likewise to communicate with people living across the country or across the globe, via the Internet, is changing how we live in a variety of ways. And one of the ways is the way we can access education. Today, people that wish to obtain college degrees; but for whom traveling to or moving to another city where the college they wish to attend is located is out of the question, can now obtain those degrees by working on class material from anywhere they have an Internet connection. This allows students who live in rural settings or remote locations to take college classes. So that eager computer science major who lives in rural Montana can now study her chosen major online after she finishes working at her day job. And that bright young writer who lives on the coast of Mozambique can take online literature classes that he wouldn’t be able to take if he didn’t have access to the Internet.

And now a new “Open Education” movement has started; this movement has colleges including Stanford, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania offering classes to anyone on Earth who has an Internet connection— free of charge! Computer Science Professor Andrew Ng created one of the first Open Education classes for Stanford and was amazed when more than 100,000 people signed up for his class! And computer science isn’t the only subject being offered. University of Pennsylvania Professor Al Fireis teaches poetry and is currently readying classes in modern and contemporary American poetry for the Fall 2012 semester – and those classes too will be available to all interested parties free of charge!

To read more on the subject of online education, here is a link to an NPR article titled, From Silicon Valley, A New Approach To Education, which discusses the Open Education Movement:

Her is a link to an Atlantic article: Can Online Education Be Both Successful and Good For Us? which discusses online education at the college level:

And here’s a link to a Voice of America article, titled Younger Students Join Online Learning Trend, Elementary, secondary learners turn to virtual classrooms, which discusses online education at the elementary and secondary educational levels:

Linda R.

Using Apple TV For Meeting Rooms Presentations

The $99 Apple TV has a neat feature in that you can use it with an iPad to project presentations from your iPad to a screen or wall in any meeting room.

You can create presentations within a number of applications available for the iPad and then project what appears on the iPad via an Apple TV. Popular iPad applications which can be used to create presentations include Apple’s Pages (sort of a combination between Microsoft Word and Publisher), Numbers (which is similar in scope to Microsoft Excel) and Keynote (which is comparable to Microsoft PowerPoint).

Here’s a link to a PC World article, titled Apple TV Finds a Home in the Meeting Room, on the subject:

Linda R.

iPads Replacing Cash Registers

The advancing technology is continuing change the way we live. Consider the point-of-sale system that most businesses use today. If you go to a restaurant or pick out something to buy at a store then when you actually pay for the item you have to use a small touch screen to enter your credit or debit card information (by sliding the card through the machine) or even just to press the cash button to indicate that you are paying with cash – that system is considered a point-of-sale system. And many small businesses are now leaving that “old” touch-screen point-of-sale system behind and beginning to use tablets like the iPad combined with the power of cloud computing to allow them to more cheaply swipe a person’s credit card and take their payment. Our local Civic Music does this! If you go to the next Civic Music concert this weekend, the last one in the series for this year, and want to buy a subscription for the 2012-2013 Civic Music season watch how they process your transaction at the customer service desk – they’ll have their iPads handy!


Here’s a link to a Read Write Mobile article on this very subject should you like to know more about it!


Linda R.



New E-Reading Device – Barnes And Noble Noble Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight

Barnes and Noble has just announced, and is taking pre-orders for, the first dedicated E-Ink E-Reader with an accompanying backlit screen feature.

And if you’re scratching you’re head and wondering what all that means let me explain in a bit more detail! Prior to the creation of this new Barnes & Noble E-Reader there have been two types of E-Readers and tablets that you could read E-Books upon.

The first type of E-Readers feature what is known as E-Ink displays. Devices with E-Ink screens feature black text on a light grey back ground. These readers, and the entry level Kindles and Nooks fall under this category, are great to take to the beach or the lake or to use to read in any outside location because sunlight doesn’t reflect off the screen.  Additionally of note, if you use one of these E-Ink readers in your house then you’ll need to sit next to a lamp just like you would with a traditional print book.

The second type of E-Reading devices feature what is called a backlit display. These E-Reading devices, which include the iPad, Kindle Fire, B&N Nook Color and Nook Tablet as well as a multitude of Android tablets, feature black text on a bright white screen. The text on the bright white screen is reminiscent of what text looks like when you type it into a Microsoft Word document. And this type of E-Reading device isn’t an easy one to use outdoors because sunlight does reflect off the screen making text difficult to read. On the other hand,  these E-Reading devices are great to use indoors because you never have to worry about whether you’re sitting next to the best reading lamp in the house or not. In fact, you can even use these E-Readers with all the lights in a room turned off and you’ll still be able to easily read the text on the screen.

And now Barnes & Noble is coming out with a third type of E-Reading device. Their new E-Reader, which will be available May 1, is called “The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. This new E-Reader features an E-Ink display and an option to turn on backlighting so one can both read outdoors and also easily read an E-Book in the house without having a care as to where the best reading lamp in the room is!

If you’re interested in this new Nook B&N has a webpage devoted to it and you can access it by clicking on the following link:

Just another E-Reading device to consider should you be interested in taking the E-Reading plunge!

And if you recently purchased an E-Reader and have questions about how to use it please joins us for our next E-Reader workshop – it will be held next Thursday, April 19, 2012 starting at 6 PM.

Linda R.