Cool Stuff: Your 2008 Christmas Gift Guide

18 economical, expensive, and just plain weird tech gifts for your friends and family

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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