Cool Stuff: Your 2008 Christmas Gift Guide

18 economical, expensive, and just plain weird tech gifts for your friends and family
  • Acoustibuds are silicone rubber adapters that turn standard earbuds into down-your-ear-canal, seal-the-exits-and-crank-up-the-party buds.
  • The InFocus IN1102 projector is the Cadillac of portable video projectors.
  • The Eco Media Player from Taylor Baylis has a hand crank connected to a built-in generator so you can power your own music.
  • Movie Collector is software from that makes short work of cataloging your video collection.
  • Sony's 11-in. XEL-1 Digital TV may be small, but its OLED technology brings jaw-dropping picture quality and contrast.
  • Mr. Personality, the wise-cracking robot, is equipped with rugged wheels for rolling around the house.
  • IrfanView, a powerful tool for manipulating and processing your photos, is astonishingly free. (We won't tell if you won't.)
  • Canon's EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR camera offers performance unimaginable a few years ago -- at less than half the price of the venerable EOS-1Ds Mark III.
  • The Minoru 3D Webcam sits on a desk or monitor and takes 3-D images -- but your friends have to wear special colored glasses to see the 3-D effect.
  • The i-gotU USB GPS Travel Logger lets you geotag your photos and then combine the locations and photos into a map mashup.
  • The Lexus LX-570 offers state-of-the-art technology combined with luxury for those who are into conspicuous consumption.
  • ThinkGeek's Wi-Fi Detector Shirt lights up to dynamically indicate the strength of any nearby 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi signals.
  • The Iogear Bluetooth 2.0 USB Micro Adapter plugs into any PC or Mac to make it Bluetooth-compatible.
  • Take a Mac Pro with an Apple Cinema HD 30-inch flat-panel display, add a second 30-inch display plus two 3.2-GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors, 32GB of RAM, 4TB of internal storage and an Nvidia Quadro FX 5600 1.5GB graphics            card, and you've got the ultimate computing machine.
  • The Willcom D4 ultramobile PC, a rebranded version of the Sharp WS016SH, is about the size of a large candy-bar phone but still runs Windows Vista.
  • The Finger Drum Mousepad from Hammacher Schlemmer lets you play eight different percussion sounds with your fingers.
  • The Diamond Flower mouse, set with 59 diamonds in the shape of a flower, shows you care enough to spend $23,250 on a mouse.
  • Dream Cheeky's USB Missile Launcher uses pressurized air to shoot foam-tipped darts up to 10 feet. Cubicle dwellers, beware!

The holidays can be stressful even in the best of times, but this year's dismal economic climate is bringing new headaches. Not only do we have to grapple with the usual questions about what to buy for whom ("Should I get an iPod case for Aunt Mabel? Wait, no, I got her one last year..."), we also have to look for ways to cut expenses.

That's why we've done something a bit different in our 2008 Cool Stuff Holiday Gift Guide. As usual, the staff at Computerworld looked for cool, fun and useful gadgets for home and office computing, for entertainment at home or when you're on the go, and for when you're traveling and taking photographs. But this time, we offer three specific suggestions within each category.

For those of you who have a lot of gifts to buy, we present our "On a Budget" choices -- gadgets that cost under US$50 (some way under $50) but will still please the techies among your friends and relations.

If you're one of the lucky ones who can count on a big bonus or a golden parachute (or perhaps you're planning to buy just one big gift for the whole family this year), we've got suggestions that are, monetarily speaking, "Over the Top."

And finally, if you're just looking for something so weird that nobody else would think of it, take a look at our "Off the Wall" ideas. Happy clicking!

Mobile entertainment

It's great that you can carry your media with you everywhere -- but that's not enough. You want to be able to listen to it comfortably, watch it without squinting and not have to worry about when your battery will conk out. Here are three portable gadgets that will make sure your music won't die -- no matter where you are.

On a Budget: Acoustibuds

There are two kinds of people on your gift list: those who are fussy about the earbuds they use with their portable players, and those who aren't. Give the fussy ones Acoustibuds.

These silicone rubber adapters turn standard flat-front buds that sort of sit in your ears (like the ones that come with iPods and Zunes) into down-your-ear-canal, seal-the-exits-and-crank-up-the-party buds. The multiple circular fins on the Acoustibuds make a better seal to keep out ambient noise and improve volume and fidelity, and they hold the bud in your ear better.

They fit most flat-front earbuds and come in a package that includes two sizes (five-fin, for petite ears; and six-fin, for regular jug handles) in black or white.

And what should you get for the people who aren't fussy? Give them some Acoustibuds, too. Once they've slipped these hypoallergenic silicone jackets onto their whatever flat-front buds, they'll realize what all the fuss is about. For US$13, how can you go wrong?

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Computerworld Staff

Topics: christmas gift guide
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