It's fun to be wowed by hardware, especially in the Macintosh world where industrial design is a driving force. There's just something about gadgets that plug in, connect to, interact with, and work alongside our Macs. But it's important to remember that it would all be molded plastic and silicon if not for the software inside. On the Mac especially, software tends to have a long shelf-life, which could be one reason we didn't receive many gift recommendations this year - raise your hand if you're still using Microsoft Word 5.1! Be sure to also check out the gift suggestions from previous years, including the TidBITS Talk discussions that prompted them.
The Door Swings Both Ways -- After you've used always-on Internet access, it's hard to go back to connecting via modem. However, a computer that's always connected to the Internet is also a machine that's potentially susceptible to attack from other computers around the world. To keep an eye on incoming and outgoing traffic, Keith Holzman recommends software from Open Door Networks. DoorStop, which is licensed to Symantec and sold as the $70 Norton Personal Firewall for Macintosh, is simple to install and administer, and keeps intruders at bay. (A $300 Server Edition of DoorStop is also available for Mac OS servers.) We're also partial to another software firewall, IPNetSentry from TidBITS sponsor Sustainable Softworks.
Keith wrote, "I also like Open Door's Who's There?, which takes the information from the DoorStop and Norton Personal Firewall log and lets you see what domain the would-be intruder is trying to do, even making it simple for you to send an email to the intruder's ISP. A single user license is $40 for Mac OS 8 and later, and $50 for Mac OS X."
Print Explosion -- If you're still looking for a gift for the sort of person who's constantly making little flyers and signs in a word processor, check out Nova Development's $60 Print Explosion Deluxe. It helps those who aren't fluent with more general programs create greeting cards, invitations, labels, calendars, t-shirts, business cards, posters, banners, and more, and includes a vast number of fonts (500) plus clip art graphics and photographs (90,000). Print Explosion works under Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, where we tested it after downloading the necessary 2.0.2 update that provides Mac OS X 10.1 compatibility. We were able to make an invitation with a number of graphics and text blocks, although the process was rougher than would be ideal, with problems entering text into the Project Assistant that helps you start projects, an occasional crash that caused us to lose changes (though it didn't affect any other applications), and some generally quirky behavior. Make sure the recipient will be able to print from Print Explosion, though that's less of a problem with Mac OS X than it was a few months ago (Epson released some drivers for more color inkjet printers, although some people have had troubles printing if Classic is running).
Silicon Chef: Allez Cuisine! Adam and Tonya have had a kitchen Mac for almost as long as they've had a kitchen, it seems, providing quick access to recipes and other information on the Internet. For those who want to use a Mac to store their own recipes, Mary Naylor suggests buying Inaka Software's Computer Cuisine Deluxe 3.0. "I tried using MasterCook in the past, and it is not as good as this shareware program (which works under Mac OS X as well as Mac OS 8 and later). I think this is the only recipe program for the Mac that can work with Mac OS X, but I'm not sure. It has really nice graphics, includes 1,000 recipes, and only costs $20. I'd recommend this for someone who wants a nice program at a small price. And try the homemade eggnog recipe... it's great!"