DVD Jon's firm enables iTunes copying | Australian IT
DVD Jon's firm enables iTunes copying
A START-UP co-founded by famed Norwegian hacker "DVD Jon" has released a program that removes copy-protection from audio tracks.
The San Francisco-based company, doubleTwist, released a self-titled program that makes it easy for consumers to share audio, images, and video between computers and mobile devices.
The program converts copy-protected audio into a different format to allow more transfers and copies of the file.
Copy-protection, also known as digital rights management (DRM), is an anti-piracy method used to restrict the copy and transfer of digital music.
The DRM used on tracks from Apple's iTunes Music Store restricts playback to Apple devices only.
U.S. issues notice on downing of satellite – CNN.com
U.S. issues notice on downing of satellite
The U.S. government issued a formal notice warning ships and planes to stay clear of a large area of the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii.
The notice says the two- and-a-half hour window begins 12:30 p.m. Thursday EST,
The Missile Defense Agency estimated the cost of a sea-based attempted intercept at $40 million to $60 million
Without any intervention, Pentagon officials have said they believe the satellite would come down on its own in early March.
The option of striking the satellite with a missile launched from an Aegis cruiser was decided upon by President Bush
iTWire – Pirate Bay gets scuppered by Yahoo
Pirate Bay gets scuppered by Yahoo
Yahoo appears to have removed links to the Pirate Bay from their index, in what could be part of the most recent action against ‘the world’s largest bittorrent tracker’
Doing a search in Yahoo for the Pirate Bay brings up a Wikipedia entry along with news links to the latest legal action,
War on music piracy – Technology – BrisbaneTimes – brisbanetimes.com.au
War on music piracy
The Government will examine new legislative proposals being unveiled in Britain this week to target people who download films and music illegally. Internet service providers (ISPs) there might be legally required to take action against users who access pirated material.
The music industry estimates 1 billion songs were traded illegally by Australians last year.
Under the three-strikes policy, a warning would be first issued to offenders who illegally share files using peer-to-peer technology to access music, TV shows and movies free of charge. The second strike would lead to the offender's internet access being suspended; the third would cancel the offender's internet access.
The policy would mirror legislation being introduced in Britain, which would require ISPs to police the activities of users.
Web porn software filter a dud – web – Technology – brisbanetimes.com.au
Web porn software filter a dud
THE Rudd Government has branded as a failure the $85 million software filter scheme to protect young Australians from online pornography and will review its future.
It was expected 2.5 million households would take up the free porn-blocking filters within 12 months but only 144,088 filter products have been downloaded or ordered on CD-ROM since August last year.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has estimated about 29,000 of these accessed filter products were still being used – less than 2 per cent of the set target.
"The program has clearly failed, despite over $15 million being spent in advertising to support it," Mr Conroy said.Federal Communications Minister
"Labor has always said that PC filtering is not a stand-alone solution to protecting children from online dangers. The Government has a comprehensive cyber-safety plan that includes the implementation of mandatory ISP-based filtering to deliver a filtered feed to all homes, schools and public internet points.
Machines to match human brain by 2029 – Hardware – iTnews Australia
Machines to match human brain by 2029
A US scientist claims that machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence within the next 21 years..
Dr Ray Kurzweil, speaking yesterday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, described a future where machine intelligence will surpass that of the human brain as computers learn to teach and replicate among themselves.
"The paradigm shift rate is now doubling every decade, so the next half century will see 32 times more technical progress than the past half century," said Dr Kurzweil.
Toshiba quits HD DVD 'format war' – CNN.com
Toshiba quits HD DVD 'format war'
- Toshiba says it will no longer make or market HD DVD players and recorders
- Move delivers victory to rival Sony's Blu-ray disc technology for next-generation video
- Toshiba lost because it lacks retail presence in many key markets, analysts say
Toshiba said it made the decision to cease developing, manufacturing, and marketing HD DVDs after "recent major changes in the market." It promised to continue offering support and service for all existing Toshiba HD DVD products.
"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," Toshiba President and Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida said in a news release.
Toshiba's HD DVD business has been suffering recently with a string of major retailers and rental companies announcing their preference for Blu-ray, developed by Sony.
Current – Blu-ray could still lose HD video war: Toshiba
Blu-ray could still lose HD video war: Toshiba
| By Matthew Henry
SYDNEY: Toshiba claims that Sony’s victory in the high definition disc format war will be short lived due to the rise of HD digital video downloads over broadband, which the company claims was one of the key reason for abandoning HD DVD.
In a press conference this morning, Toshiba Australia general manager, Mark Whittard, said that while the US film and retail industries’ recent shift to support Blu-ray sealed HD DVD’s fate, other factors played a role in Toshiba’s abandonment of its high definition video disc business.
Whittard claims the penetration of both next generation disc formats is well below expectations while uptake of digital movie download services is accelerating, and could render HD discs redundant.
“We believe technology developments will soon leapfrog high definition discs, whether it be HD DVD or Blu-ray,” he claimed.
“This step is going to be leapfrogged by the next major format – digital content, internet downloads and video on demand.”
Whittard also identified DVD as a formidable competitor to Blu-ray.
According to figures quoted by Toshiba, total sales of HD movie discs reached a paltry $300 million last year compared to sales of over $23 billion for DVD discs.
Whittard claims Blu-ray will find it difficult to replace DVD in the same way DVD comprehensively replaced VHS.
Toshiba sold less than one million HD DVD players worldwide, and while Blu-ray has achieved higher penetration with the PS3, Whittard claims DVD will be “extremely difficult” for Blu-ray to overcome.
“DVD players still sell in their tens of millions worldwide today,” he said.
“DVD upscaling technology means you get near high definition quality, and to most people there is little discernable difference.”
However, while Toshiba is now moving towards a business model which will see it place more emphasis on other HD video delivery platforms, it has not ruled out joining the Blu-ray camp.
“You never say never, but at this stage there are no plans,” he said.
Toshiba's HD DVD players also have the potential for internet connectivity which gives them the potential to accept HD video streaming over ethernet connectivity, which could be utilised by the company in the future.
Current – Labor's 10-star energy ratings to cover all appliances, including plasmas
Labor's 10-star energy ratings to cover all appliances, including plasmas
By Chris Nicholls
ADELAIDE: Peter Garrett, the Federal Minister for the Environment, has confirmed he will implement the 10-star energy efficiency ratings plan for the electrical appliance industry he introduced August last year.
Speaking at the International Solar Cities Congress in Adelaide, Garrett said the 10-star system would push manufacturers to improve their products and help consumers by giving them more information.
The move would be the first time an energy ratings system has been applied to all categories within the appliance industry, and would mean LCD and plasma televisions, criticised in recent times for their electricity use as sizes have increased, would also need a ratings sticker.
In the original policy document, the then shadow minister said he would also look at fast-tracking new standards for set-top boxes, computers and home theatre systems.
In addition, national three-yearly reviews of existing standards would be implemented, he said.
The original proposal suggested introducing a one Watt standby power regulation as well.
An enquiry to Peter Garrett’s media secretary were not returned before publication.
Current – The Born Ultimate: $69,999 70" Full HD LCD TV
The Born Ultimate: $69,999 70" Full HD LCD TV
SYDNEY, 11 February 2008 – Samsung Electronics Australia, a leading supplier of LCD TVs, continues to create major LCD technology breakthroughs with the launch of its premium Full 1080p HD 70” LCD TV. The unique integrated HD tuner and LED Smartlighting™ ensures Samsung’s 70” LCD is the pinnacle of Full HDTVs.
This is the world’s first 70” 1080p Full HD LCD TV with integrated HD tuner, so there is no need for an additional set-top box to take full advantage of the latest free-to-air HDTV content. LED Smartlighting™ means the screen has multiple LED backlights that turn on and off independently of each other providing the exact on-screen light for each image. It is through this unique process that this TV can deliver another world’s first – a stunning 500,000:1 contrast ratio for depth and shading not available before.
“Samsung has engineered this TV with a host of technology innovations exclusive to its 70 inch size. LED Smartlighting™, 500,000:1 contrast ratio combined with 1080p resolution proves our ability to continue to revolutionise the LCD TV market. We intend to maintain our leadership position,” said Evan Manolis, Senior Product Manager – Visual, Samsung Electronics Australia.
A high-gloss, "piano black" bezel and rose gold trim accentuate the elegance and sophistication of Samsung's new 70" LCD TV. The dual hidden speakers and rear woofer deliver the rich sound quality to match the true-to-life on-screen images.
“This is no ordinary viewing experience. This TV is for the discerning home entertainment purist who is looking for the extraordinary viewing experience. Samsung continues to demonstrate its commitment to LCD technology. We want to do things better but we also want to do them differently. If people want to realise the HDTV revolution, we need to give them reasons to experience it with Samsung,” said Rod Rodrigues, Marketing Manager – Audio Visual, Samsung Electronics Australia.
The ultimate in technology and design, this TV is at the forefront of functionality. Hidden touch controls illuminate when used and three HDMI ports make this TV your multimedia centrepiece. HDMI is the best interface for connecting and viewing High-Definition sources like Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and camcorders. Samsung’s Wiselink™ USB 2.0 port is designed for connecting a digital camera or MP3 music player.
This TV also incorporates Samsung’s Wide Colour Enhancer to ensure blues and greens appear richer and more life like. The 70” LCD TV also has Samsung’s Super Clear Panel technology, which delivers deeper and darker blacks unlocking even more incredible detail in every scene.
For more information on Samsung 70” LCD TV, please visit www.samsung.com/au
Model Number LA70F91BDX
Mahesh Sharma | February 19, 2008
RETAIL computer games market leader EB Games is facing stiffer competition from newcomers as well as giants such as Harvey Norman.
Computer games – such as Halo 3 – make more than $1.3 billion a year here
According to figures from analyst GfK the games industry's revenues grew by 44 per cent last year to about $1.3 billion – more than the combined revenues of DVDs and cinema box offices.
But the growth of EB Games' retail footprint was below the rapid growth of the market last year, despite it expanding by about 30 per cent. It opened 60 new stores, taking its total to 250.
This contrasts sharply with previous years, when it has easily outpaced the industry's growth.
For the year ending January 31, 2006, EB's sales grew from $274 to $309 million, according to financial statements filed with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
GfK said games sales in Australia between 2005 and 2006 grew by 7 per cent, but EB's sales increased by about 12 per cent.
The retailer attributed this to 29 new stores being opened that year.
But its profit before tax for the period dropped from $33 million to $30 million. The company has yet to file its financial statements for 2007. EB Games is facing competition on a number of fronts, but coming head-on is British-based specialist chain GAME, which established a local presence early last year, buying Games Wizards.
Despite being in the market for less than a year, it doubled its store count from 20 to 51, said commercial manager Sara DeFoor, and plans to open its 100th store before the end of 2008.
EB's biggest competition is arguably coming from home entertainment retailer JB Hi-Fi, and CEO Richard Uechtritz said boosting gaming sales was a big priority.
"We've come from nowhere three years ago to become possibly number two in the country. We've provided our customers with the same range of product that anyone else can, at a better price. There's no reason they have to pay extra at EB or GAME," he said.
"By this time next year games will be a lot more significant in our stores as far as space goes."
JB Hi-Fi will also look to boost its business from trade-ins and pre-owned games, which has always been EB Games' bread and butter.
"(Trade-ins) are good on the retail side – there's good gross margins and the mass merchants don't do it," Mr Uechtritz said. "We've got our eye on it. We do it, and we do it well.
"The added advantage is that customers don't have to trade in for another game. They can trade in for an iPod, camera, TV, or DVD – whatever they like."
Harvey Norman games and entertainment national product and marketing manager Jason Williams said the retailer was well positioned to benefit from games as the industry entered a golden era.
With competition increasing from all sides, UBS retail analyst Michael Peet said specialist games retailers would find it harder compete with large chains.
"For an operation like JB Hi-Fi games are good, as they round out its offering. If you can put together complementary categories, you're going to get a lot of cross-selling."
The large floor space of stores such as JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman meant they could carry more stock.
The specialists would also face stiff competition from discount department stores, such as Kmart and Big W, which cut margins on games to get customers into their stores.
"That's where it gets tougher for the smaller operator, because that's when the margins really start to get squeezed," he said.
"Discount department stores can use games as a loss lead. They do that with CDs and DVDs already.
"You have to watch those discount department stores and how they enter the category. I think that JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman getting into it is one thing, but those guys getting in is probably going to make it even harder.
"They've got a lot of stores. If Kmart says it's going to get into this category a bit more, it's instantly there in hundreds of stores."
EB Games retail manager Shane Stockwell is confident it can retain its number-one tag and welcomes the increased attention that games are receiving.
"We do what we do, day in day out. It's all we do. We don't spend time looking at what our competitors may or may not do, or how many stores they may or may not open," he said. "We can't open 60 stores by appealing to gamers. Perhaps that's more indicative of the growth and consumer we appeal to."
'Cancer link' to heavy mobile use
Heavy mobile phone use may be linked to an increased risk of cancer of the salivary gland, a study suggests.
Researchers looked at 500 Israelis who had developed the condition and compared their mobile phone usage with 1,300 healthy controls.
Those who had used the phone against one side of the head for several hours a day were 50% more likely to have developed a salivary gland tumour.
The research appeared in The American Journal of Epidemiology.
Numerous studies have focused on the risk of tumours among those who use mobile phones, and overwhelmingly found no increased cancer risk.
But researchers at Tel Aviv University say these have tended to focus on brain tumours, and often did not include long-term users.
Cancer of the salivary gland is a very rare condition. Of the 230,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in the UK for instance annually, only 550 relate to this area.
Dr Siegal Sadetzki, who led the research, said while mobile phone use in Israel was much heavier than in many other parts of the world, this gave an insight into what the long-term, cumulative impact could be.
"Compared to other studies, the amount of exposure to radiofrequency radiation we saw here was much higher. If you like, you're seeing what could happen elsewhere 'speeded-up' in Israel," she said.
One of the key findings of the study was that heavy users in rural areas had an even higher risk that those in cities, due, the team suggested, to the fact that mobile phones in areas without strong signals need to emit more radiation to work properly.
But Dr Sadetzki stressed one study was not enough to prove a link, and that further research was needed.
Nonetheless, until more evidence became available, a "precautionary" approach was best, she said, particularly when it comes to children's use of mobile phones.
Despite these latest findings, the largest and longest-running investigation ever to be carried out into mobile phone usage found no increased risk of any sort of cancer.
It followed 420,000 people in Denmark, some of whom had been using a mobile phone for as long as ten years.
There was in fact a lower incidence of cancer than expected in a group of that size, suggesting mobile phones had no impact on the development of tumours.
Last year, the UK's Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme said that while the evidence so far was "reassuring", there was still a need for studies to examine the very long-term impact, and to look at the effect in children.
Ed Yong, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Mobile phones are a relatively recent invention and new research into any possible health risks is welcome.
"However, it's important to remember that the vast majority of studies so far have found that mobile phones do not increase the risk of any type of cancer."
BBC TV programmes put on iTunes
BBC shows including Life on Mars and Little Britain have been made available to download from digital store iTunes.
The deal makes the BBC the first UK broadcaster to offer programmes via Apple's download service.
Torchwood and Spooks are among the other shows that can now be purchased for £1.89 an episode in the UK.
Recently-aired programmes like Ashes to Ashes will appear on iTunes after they have been made available to view on the BBC's free iPlayer service.
The iPlayer is proving extremely popular, with more than 3.5 million shows streamed or downloaded in its first two weeks of operation after its Christmas Day launch.
"We want to give audiences a wide variety of options on how and where to view their favourite BBC shows," BBC Worldwide's Simon Danker said.
"With more people now choosing to watch TV shows on their iPods, fans can now enjoy those shows wherever they are."
Making shows available on iTunes was key to BBC Worldwide's aim of getting content out to the broadest possible audience, the corporation said.
The BBC is also planning to launch a joint on-demand content service with ITV and Channel 4 later this year.
Current – The world's smallest and lightest SD Card model SD/HDD hybrid model 60GB HD
The world's smallest and lightest SD Card model SD/HDD hybrid model 60GB HD
Panasonic has released its third generation of high definition (HD) camcorders, with two new models – the HDC-SD9 and HDC-HS9 – which use the AVCHD format and capture images in 1920 x 1080pi resolution for vivid colours, intricate detail and exceptional clarity.
The new models can capture from 2 hours of 1920 x 1080p recording to 6hrs of 1440 x 1080i recording on a 16GB SD Memory Card; and 4 hours of 1920 x 1080p recording on the upcoming 32GB SD Memory Card.
The camcorders include new features designed to make it easier to capture mistakefree recordings, including ‘Face Detection’ and the ‘Intelligent Shooting Guide’. ‘Face Detection’ automatically locates any faces in the picture and adjusts the exposure, contrast and skin tone to achieve optimal results. The ‘Intelligent Shooting Guide’ detects shooting problems – such as panning too quickly, backlit subject or low lighting – and displays operating advice in the LCD so the user can correct the error before recording content.
The camcorders incorporate a 5.1-channel sound system with 5 microphones, and a convenient 10x optical zoom. In addition, Panasonic’s original 3CCD camera system, Advanced Optical Image Stabilisation and Leica Dicomar lens team up to provide outstanding images.
With Panasonic’s optional DVD burner (VW-BN1E), users can copy or play back video recordings in the original AVCHD format to deliver the ultimate High Definition viewing experience on a large-screen TV.
HDC-HS9 $1,999 rrp Available late February
HDC-SD9–32 (HDC-SD9 + 32GB of memory) $1,869 rrp Available March
HDC-SD9-KIT (32 GB of memory, VW-BN1E DVD Burner, Pinnacle Studio 11 Plus, mini HDMI cable) $2,299 rrp Available mid March
WELLINGTON – It's a doggone chart buster – a song audible only to dogs has topped New Zealand record charts, and is looking to go global.
A Very Silent Night, recorded at a frequency only dogs can hear, was so popular among owners it hit number one at Christmas, but has been receiving mixed responses from listeners.
"The most violent one was a dog that physically attacked the radio when it was played and went quite berserk and totally destroyed it," said Bob Kerridge, chief executive of animal welfare group, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
"On the other side of the scale, they just lie down and did nothing."
The charity CD, priced at $NZ4.99 ($A4.35), contained an instrumental and a vocal version of the song, but Kerridge said he did not know what kind of music dogs would hear.
"Never having heard it myself, I don't what they'll hear and of course I don't know how dogs hear music," he said.
Kerridge added dogs in Australia and the United States could soon have a listen.
LONDON – A plan for the first British-led mission to the Moon won the backing of an Anglo-American space committee on Friday.
The Joint Working Group on lunar exploration named the proposed unmanned MoonLITE launch as its primary mission for collaboration.
The 100 million pound launch would fire three or four darts carrying measuring instruments into the surface of the moon from an orbiting satellite.
Scientific data recorded by the darts would be transmitted up to the satellite and relayed back to Earth.
The working group brings together experts from America's NASA and Britain's space authority, the British National Space Centre (BNSC).
The recommendation was contained in the group's first report since its creation at a meeting in Washington last April.
The group aims to foster collaboration in space exploration between Britain and the United States.
Sony's Blu-ray looks set to become the standard for high-definition DVDs after Toshiba signalled Monday that it may give up in a long-running format battle, to the relief of investors.
Toshiba Corp. is reviewing its HD DVD business and "a complete withdrawal is one of the options it is considering," an industry source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Blu-ray and HD DVD — which are incompatible — can provide cinematic-quality images and multimedia features but the players come at a much steeper price than current-generation DVDs.
The demise of HD DVD could spur sales of next-generation DVD players among consumers, who have been reluctant to gamble on one of the formats, analysts said, although Blu-ray was already far ahead in sales, particularly in Japan.
Blu-ray can store more data than HD DVD but was initially seen as more expensive to make.
Nonetheless, a growing number of Hollywood studios and retailers have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray. US giant Wal-Mart gave a decisive boost to Blu-ray last week when it said it would stop selling HD DVDs.
Weekend news reports said losses for Toshiba could reach tens of billions of yen (several hundred million US dollars) if it decides on the pullout.
But investors responded positively to the news on the belief that Toshiba, which has enjoyed healthy profits in recent years, was acting quickly to stem losses.
Toshiba shares shot up 45 yen or 5.74 percent to 829 despite a flat performance on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Shares in Sony Corp. rose 50 yen or 1.03 percent to 4,900.
"Because the more HD DVDs it sells the bigger the loss becomes, it is much better if it (Toshiba's withdrawal) happens at an earlier stage," said Tokai Tokyo Research Institute analyst Haruo Sato.
A victory for Blu-ray would be sweet revenge for Sony, whose Betamax lost out in a similar duel in the early 1980s to Panasonic's VHS to set the standard for video cassettes.
The camp supporting HD DVD includes computer behemoths Microsoft and Intel as well as Universal Home Studios, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
The death of HD DVD has been heralded since January, when Warner Brothers studio — Hollywood's largest distributor of DVDs — pulled out of an alliance with Toshiba and switched to Blu-ray.
Toshiba said Monday it has not reached a final conclusion on HD DVD.
"We are cautiously assessing market movements as it is true that Warner Brother's decision to sell titles exclusively on Blu-ray affected our sales in January," a Toshiba spokeswoman said.
Industry analysts and electronics makers maintain the format war has stifled sales of high-definition DVD players because consumers are waiting for a victor before putting down money for the expensive new technology.
"The availability of software titles decided the battle this time, just like in the VHS-Betamax war," said Yuichi Ishida, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities.
"Movie distributors have a decisive say as DVD machines would only be an empty box without software," he said.
As it focuses more on growth areas, Toshiba and its US partner SanDisk Corp. will spend up to 1.8 trillion yen (16.7 billion US dollars) on two new flash memory plants in Japan by March 2009, the Nikkei business daily reported without naming its sources.
Toshiba said nothing had been decided on the reported plants. The company has been diversifying its business interests and in 2006 bought US nuclear power plant maker Westinghouse.
Blu-ray also received a boost from its inclusion in Sony's PlayStation 3 video-game machine. Microsoft opted to offer an HD DVD player for its rival Xbox 360.
A study last month showed that Blu-ray, even excluding PlayStation, enjoyed a crushing 90 percent of next-generation DVD recorder sales in Japan in the last three months to 2007, although HD DVD fared somewhat better in the US.
© 2008 AFP
This story is sourced direct from an overseas news agency as an additional service to readers. Spelling follows North American usage, along with foreign currency and measurement units.
US scientists have developed a microfibre fabric that generates its own electricity, making enough current to recharge a mobile phone or ensure that a small MP3 music player never runs out of power.
If made into a shirt, the fabric could harness power from its wearer simply walking around or even from a slight breeze, they reported today in the journal Nature.
"The fibre-based nanogenerator would be a simple and economical way to harvest energy from the physical movement," Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led the study, said in a statement.
The nanogenerator takes advantage of the semiconductive properties of zinc oxide nanowires – tiny wires 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair – embedded into the fabric. The wires are formed into pairs of microscopic brush-like structures, shaped like a baby-bottle brush.
One of the fibres in each pair is coated with gold and serves as an electrode. As the bristles brush together through a person's body movement, the wires convert the mechanical motion into electricity.
"When a nanowire bends it has an electric effect," Wang said in a telephone interview. "What the fabric does is it translates the mechanical movement of your body into electricity."
His team made the nanogenerator by first coating fibres with a polymer, and then a layer of zinc oxide. They dunked this into a warm bath of reactive solution for 12 hours. This encouraged the wires to multiply, coating the fibres.
Stephen Lunn | February 18, 2008
AFTER many false dawns, the electronic book may finally have arrived.
Two of the biggest publishers in Britain, Random House and Hachette, are ready to offer downloadable titles by some of their top writers, including Ian McEwen and Delia Smith.
Australian publishers are bracing for the generational shift in how we read our books. Generation Y is already screen-literate and ready to make the jump, but for many older readers it is still a leap too far.
Australian Publishers Association chief executive Maree McCaskill said the new electronic readers – small handheld devices into which books can be downloaded from a publisher's website – have come a long way since a decade ago, when the early clunky versions failed to capture an audience.
"It's true a lot of the early readers were difficult to use, but they are now becoming amazingly good," Ms McCaskill said. "I've tried some of the new models, and they do provide a comfortable read.
"I'm sure there'll be an age issue. Generation Y have been raised as screen readers already, so for them it's normal. Baby boomers will have some resistance to the technology.
"But I don't buy into this whole publishing mythology that says people want the look, the touch and the smell of a book, the whole romance of it."
Two rival devices are on the market, Sony's Reader and Amazon's Kindle. Both allow hundreds of novels to be downloaded onto a device about the size of a book. Ms McCaskill said the most recent reader she saw sold for about $800.
She said the notion of an e-book had been around for up to 15 years, and there was "still some way to go" before it would be considered anywhere near mainstream.
Australian publishers were struggling with the big US houses, which were determined to retain control of the digital rights to all books, international or local, she said.
Machines 'to match man by 2029'
Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted.
Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people's brains to make them more intelligent, said Ray Kurzweil.
The engineer believes machines and humans will eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health.
"It's really part of our civilisation," Mr Kurzweil explained.
"But that's not going to be an alien invasion of intelligent machines to displace us."
Machines were already doing hundreds of things humans used to do, at human levels of intelligence or better, in many different areas, he said.
Man versus machine
"I've made the case that we will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence with the broad suppleness of human intelligence including our emotional intelligence by 2029," he said.
"We're already a human machine civilisation; we use our technology to expand our physical and mental horizons and this will be a further extension of that."
Humans and machines would eventually merge, by means of devices embedded in people's bodies to keep them healthy and improve their intelligence, predicted Mr Kurzweil.
"We'll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains through the capillaries and interact directly with our biological neurons," he told BBC News.
After hearing this scope — "You know… for kids." — I almost wrote it off outright. After seeing the game, I think it's going to appeal heavily to that young demographic, but it's also going to snag a lot of The Sims fans.
Gallery: Spore Creatures (DS)