Books, X-Files, & Economics, Oh My!

Welcome back to Mac Sightings. Our first tidbit comes from Observer Danny Elder, who had a Mac encounter while visiting his father for dinner. While we often see a hidden Mac gracing the pages of an in-flight magazine or two, an iBook has made a more permanent publication.

My father invited me over for dinner to see the cover of his new financial book, and on the cover of the book was a wooden desk in a nicely lit studio, and thereis a computer on the desk to show that itis a book about trading and the markets and electronic trading as well...and that computer is unmistakably an iBook! The book is called Come Into My Trading Room, by Dr. Alexander Elder.

Our next sighting is from Observer Tim Harville, who spotted several Macs in the most recent episode of Foxis The X-Files. The X-Files has often used Macs on their show, and no one lamented the theft of Scullyis PowerMac more than I. This time, weire treated to a view of what OS X can do soon--video conferencing--and a more futuristic use of a Studio Display as a hospital monitor.

Donit know if anybody is still watching The X-Files, but I noticed something in last nightis episode that struck me as interesting. While performing an autopsy in her lab, Scully was clearly doing video conferencing in OS X. You could see her dock along the left edge of the Apple Studio Display, and very high-quality videoconferencing (even for TV) using a very Aquafied app -- so Aquafied, it couldive been an iApp. I didnit catch the name of the program, but with all the discussion about videoconferencing on the Mac lately, I though it was worth mentioning.

Another interesting Mac sighting in the episode was an Apple display in a hospital room. Iive noticed this one in previous episodes involving hospital rooms -- thereis a display attached to all the monitoring equipment, clearly Apple, mounted on an arm bracket. The display doesnit look exactly like anything Apple sells, but it could be a 15" Apple Studio display with the clear plastic frame removed and mounted on an arm.

Finally, both the G4 iMac and the iPod made an article in the International Herald Tribuneis "iTech: Technology for Individuals" section. An article by Dermot McGrath discusses the new e-Carte Bleue, a new online payment method, and the price differences when ordering goods online in the European Union. He specifically mentions the iMac, and an image of an iMac in a shopping cart is flanked by two different prices, both quoted in Euros and including value-added taxes (Belgium and Spain at €2,117 and €2,029 respectively). A picture of an iPod sits in the middle of a chart showing standard VAT rates in the EU.

Prices for goods ordered on the internet vary widely depending on what country you live in--even if you are comparing the same product from the same seller, like the iMac computer from Appleis online store shown at left. The culprit is usually local taxes, like the value-added taxes in Europe, but shipping charges make it hard to comparison-shop too.

Things are a little better if you are downloading software, rather than ordering a product, because if youire in Europe and order from a non-European company, you can avoid the VAT entirely--at least until next year, when the European Union want sot s start applying it to digital downloads, like music and software.

If you have a Mac sighting, and youid like to share it with us and the rest of the TMO community, drop a note to Whether itis a television commercial or an iPod attached to a celebrity, we want to hear about it.