With just a short time before Christmas, you may be wondering what little stocking stuffer you can get for your technically obsessed co-worker, computer savvy boss or geeky family member. It is not too late to pick out a gift that will stay out of the closet of useless gifts after the party's over. OfB's Timothy R. Butler looks at five great gift ideas below.
Waterfield Design's iPod Case: This case, better known as the “SuperDooper iPod Case” protects iPods with nice, thick padded sides made of durable fabric on the outside and soft fabric on the inside, where the case actually touches the iPod. Surprisingly, this case is in a minority of designs that actually protect the screen rather than leaving it wide open — something that ought to be appreciated by anyone who plans to wear the case using the included heavy-duty belt clip.
The case sounds great on paper, but how well does it work? Very well. We tried it out on a 4G 20-gigabyte iPod and found that it fit it very securely, but in a way that kept all of the buttons and ports of the music player accessible. The flap (with velcro) that goes over the screen is easily lifted up with a little built in tab at the bottom of it. The iPod's synchronization port is accessible through a small opening in the bottom of the case, and the case can even be left on when the iPod is in its docking cradle by folding open the bottom of the case. The swivel belt clip is surprisingly robust feeling compared to the relatively flimsy ones that come with many cell phone cases. A small pocket on the front flap can hold the iPod ear buds when not in use.
For the style conscious iPod wearer, the case can be obtained in four colors — red, blue, white and “lead” gray — although the predominate color is black in each variant. Our unit was of the lead colored design, which matches nicely with any of Apple's aluminum encased computers, such as a PowerBook G4 or PowerMac G5. The case's snug fit translates into a design that adds as little bulk as possible without putting the iPod at risk of damage. Any iPod user not already fortunate enough to be enjoying this case will surely thank-you for the gift ($40, www.sfbags.com).
Mandrake Move: Most computer users know the frustration of being away from their computer and feeling lost if forced to borrow someone else's — all of one's data and programs are missing. Sure a laptop solves this problem, but if your budget is too tight or if lugging around a delicate piece of machinery doesn't fit one's job, Mandrakesoft has an ideal solution. Move combines the basic conveniences of a read-only “live CD” GNU/Linux distribution, a distribution that can boot to a fully usable desktop on any computer with an optical drive in just seconds, with a memory key to provide a way to save one's documents and settings in a portable fashion. Suddenly a live-cd need not have short-term memory loss any longer. Simply pop in the CD and key and you have your desktop available at the nearest PC.
MandrakeStore offers several variations of Move, one without a bundled CD key and others that bundle keys ranging in size from 128 MB to a whopping 1.5 GB key. While the latter will set you back several hundred greenbacks, but the unbundled Move CD that will work with many existing USB keys is much friendlier on the wallet. ($32.90 without bundled USB key, www.mandrakestore.com).
RadTech ScreensavRz: We first reviewed the ScreensavRz screen protector a few months ago. Using RadTech's exclusive Optex micro fiber material, ScreensavRz is perfect for anyone you know who is protective of his laptop or all in one — PC or Mac. The cloth comes in a number of sizes, including specially tailored editions for Apple PowerBooks, iBooks and iMac G4's. Simply pick the proper color and size for the recipient's computer to get a gift guaranteed to be a pleasant surprise. You can find our complete review of ScreensavRz here< /a> (starting at $13.95, www.radtech.us).
RadTech eyelighter: RadTech has another product that will surely please almost anyone (even those who aren't necessarily technically inclined): the eyelighter. The eyelighter is a LED spotlight that fits onto one's ear and projects a very bright beam of light forward in front of the wearer. The possibilities for this light are almost infinite. It is, of course, perfect for working on computers located under desks and peering inside of tight equipment cases, but it also serves quite well as a flashlight in a dark corner of a storage closet or basement. Book enthusiasts will also rejoice at the eyelighter's ability to serve as quite possibly the world's best book light — it is bright enough to read by without any eyestrain, but it is also focused enough that the avid reader with a spouse will not disturb their significant other's sleep.
The eyelighter comes in models with white, blue or red, of which we tested the ultra-bright white LED unit. It uses two 3v replaceable lithium battery “buttons” to provide hours worth of light. To insure a proper fit on anyone's ears, RadTech used bendable, heavy gage, plastic coated wire for the part of the unit that fits over the ear, which can be molded to provide the right fit. This is a sure favorite gift for just about anyone this Christmas season, and it is affordable enough that you can always purchase one for yourself as well. We can tell you ahead of time that ordering one for yourself should be mandatory; if you do not, the gift recipient may be in danger of not receiving his or her gift ($9.95-$11.95, www.radtech.us).
Rapid Application Development with Mozilla: Give your favorite developer something to chew on over the holiday with Nigel McFarlane's entry into the Bruce Perens' Open Source series of books, published by Prentice Hall PTR. Using clear language that even a relative programming klutz, such as yours truly, can understand, McFarlane gives a good overview of the programming options available to developers wanting to tap into the powerful tools created by the Mozilla Foundation for its namesake Internet suite ($44.90, www.phptr.com).