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Gadgets & Gizmos

How to shop for those folks who spend more time on their computers than you do at work and asleep combined

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of running in a fairly tech-savvy social circle, it’s that finding decent gifts for the hard-core gadget geek can be an intimidating quest. Even if you consider yourself fairly literate when it comes to current technology, there’s a good chance that by the time you finish asking, “What will they come up with next?” the typical gadget-head has already used—and become bored with—whatever it is they actually did “come up with next.” That’s why this year’s gadget guide is, with a few exceptions, full of gifts that gadget geeks will not only find useful, but probably haven’t bought for themselves already. Oh, and if your gift-giving choices end up making recipients think you’re a bit more tech-savvy than you really are, well, that can be our little secret.

First on the list are flash drives—possibly one of the most handy little tools around for anyone who uses more than one computer on a regular basis. Like the floppy discs of days gone by, these portable storage devices allow you to move files from one computer to another. Flash drives come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but are rarely any bigger than a house key (making them great key-ring additions). The Memorex U3 smart Mini TravelDrive comes in various models, ranging from a $40 drive with 256MB of total memory to a $180 version with 2GB of storage. Not only is it useful for moving files around, but it also comes with programs installed that allow you to bring some of your favorite applications on the road, too. For example, this drive comes with e-mail and antivirus software that allows you to check messages or scan files for viruses simply by plugging the drive into any computer with an Internet connection.

Since many of the gift suggestions on this list assume that your gadget geeks already own the latest basic technology (i.e., computers, entertainment systems, etc.), why not get them something that can pull the whole set-up together? The Logitech Harmony 676 ($100-125) is a great universal remote that will keep its owners from having to track down the remotes for the TV, DVD, DVR, stereo and various other devices every time they want to geek out. It’s relatively easy to set up and use, with some great programming features available once you’re comfortable with it—such as the ability to make one button turn on multiple devices and set the appropriate channel for movie watching or album listening.

Of course, if you’re looking to get your gadget geek out of the living room or office, a GPS navigator might provide just the sort of encouragement you’re looking for. Magellan’s series of handheld Explorist units are all fine buys, ranging anywhere from $100 to more than $500 in price, depending on the unit’s accuracy, style of presentation (bigger screens or buttons, for example) and ability to store or download maps and other information. If you do end up buying a GPS unit for someone, be sure to point them in the direction of www.geocaching.com, too—it’s the perfect hobby for people trying to find the happy medium between a love for nature and love for technology.

If your gearhead is the mischievous sort, the TV-B-Gone is available for around $20. This little gadget shuts off any televisions in a 20- to 50-foot radius with the push of a button. Spend too long in a noisy waiting room or bar, and you’ll understand why this sucker might quickly become one of your gearhead’s favorite toys.

Of course, with all of these gadgets, there’s always the danger of losing the various chargers and plugs they rely upon. The Multiple Unit Recharging Station offered by Hammacher Schlemmer ($25) provides one of the most inexpensive solutions to this problem, allowing you to stow away the cords for up to three devices (a cell phone, digital camera and GPS unit, for instance) while also protecting the devices from power surges.

Last on the list are a variety of devices for any iPod owners on your gift-giving radar. Why the special attention to Apple’s most popular product? Well, since these portable media players are selling out in many stores this season and are becoming more affordable as each new model is released, the odds are pretty high that a few of the people on your shopping list own (or will soon own) one of these trendy little gizmos. However, if you’re looking to make someone a new iPod owner (or want to give them the best model on the market), the Apple iPod with Video Playback is currently the cream of the crop. Available in 30GB ($300) or 60GB ($400) models, this iPod is essentially a handheld home-entertainment system, giving users the ability to put thousands of songs, photos and even television shows and feature-length movies, in the palms of their hands.

If your gadget geek is already iPod-enabled, there’s a cornucopia of add-ons available that are bound to make recipients happy no matter which model they own. The Griffin Road Trip ($50-80) will allow your iPod to broadcast audio to your car stereo via an FM transmitter and can also charge the iPod using your cigarette lighter. While the quality isn’t exactly up to par with dedicated voice-recorder devices, the Griffin iTalk ($20-30) makes a nice little gift for the person on your list who likes to do the “note to self” thing. If that’s still not enough ways to make use of your iPod, there’s always the Griffin iBeam flashlight and laser pointer set ($10-15) that turns your media player into a searchlight or presentation tool.

Last, but certainly not least, if you’re feeling a little risqué, there’s the adult-oriented iBuzz, an iPod-powered, bullet-sized vibrator that pulses along with the tempo and volume of songs. It’s only available online, however, and only from www.lovehoney.co.uk. It sells for a little more than $40, but that’s pennies compared to all the joy it will bring to that someone special, right?

Well, that’s about it, folks. Here’s hoping the gadget geek on your list appreciates all the time you’ve spent wallowing in their pixilated world, and that this list helps you fill their holidays with the warm glow of an LCD display, the twinkle of LED lights and the soft, comforting sound of a spinning disc drive.

—Rick Marshall

 

 

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