TidBITS is known for its insightful articles, timely news, and in-depth analysis of issues and events in the Macintosh and Internet worlds… but for this special issue, we throw all that out the window to bring you holiday gift suggestions from TidBITS readers! Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, there’s sure to be something here to tickle the fancy or change the world of your favorite Macintosh enthusiasts. Enjoy!
Welcome to our 1996 gift issue! This is a special issue of TidBITS, so it falls outside of our normal distribution schedule and has no sponsors. We’ve long made a habit of publishing an article in mid-December with holiday gift suggestions from TidBITS readers. We’re continuing the tradition this year, with the added bonus of deals on a number of the products mentioned. We were planning on publishing these gift ideas as an article in a regular issue of TidBITS, but we received so many suggestions that there simply wasn’t going to be room.
All of the items within were suggested by readers, and a number of items received multiple votes, which is amazing considering the number of TidBITS readers and the wide variety of products available for the discerning Macintosh user.
When possible, we tried to get some sort of a deal on the products suggested to help make this holiday season a bit easier on the bank account. We can’t guarantee that the deals we’ve found are the lowest possible prices, but we imagine that they will be pretty good in most cases. If you find a lower price, give yourself a gold star and take advantage of it.
We’ve tried to group the gift suggestions into rough categories below, but since some of them proved difficult to categorize, I recommend at least skimming all the sections in case there’s something in an unexpected place.
Finally, on an administrative note, TidBITS will not be published on 23-Dec-96 or 30-Dec-96. Tonya and I always take these last two issues in the year off to visit family for Christmas, and Geoff enjoys a few weeks with minimal telephone calls. Whatever your plans for the time, we hope you enjoy the last few weeks of 1996. [ACE]
RAM, Wonderful RAM — Perhaps the most commonly suggested item this year was more RAM, which is still quite affordable. Kate Norem said it best when she wrote, "You know, one can never have too much RAM."
Scott <[email protected]> agrees, or at least he thinks he does:
As I get older I find that my memory isn’t what it used to be. In fact, I frequently forget current events. As I get older I find that my memory isn’t what it used to be. What would help me considerably is new memory. Please tell Santa that I barely remember to rebuild my desktop, optimize my HD, and check it twice on a monthly basis. A 16 MB or 32 MB, 60ns, 72-pin SIMM for my LC475 would be a very nice stocking stuffer. Now if I can only remember how to install it…
TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics has come up with special RAM pricing to go with this issue. They have 8 MB, 16, MB, and 32 MB 72-pin SIMMs for $40, $70, and $145, respectively. DIMMs in the same sizes are $45, $75, and $159. Check the TidBITS Memory Deal text on the Small Dog home page.
Scott is obviously faking amnesia if he can remember that his LC475 needs a 60ns, 72-pin SIMM. Most of us mere mortals rely on something like the free Guru 2.1 from Newer Technologies. Guru stands for GUide to RAM Upgrades and lists all sorts of tweaky little details about RAM upgrades for all Mac models. [ACE]
RAM Doubler 2
If RAM is a bit more than you want to spend, I recommend RAM Doubler 2… it works just like it’s supposed to and makes a great gift. [Neil Fiertel <[email protected]>]
We reviewed RAM Doubler 2 in TidBITS-351, and Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers RAM Doubler 2 for $49.95 ($4 off) via the URL below.
3M Precision Mousing Surface
I helped a neighbor with his Mac a couple of weeks ago and in an effort to thank me he gave me a "3M Precise Mousing Surface" (that’s really what they call it). I smiled and said thanks (whee, another mouse pad!). I have to tell you though, this thing is wonderful. It’s the best thing from 3M since Post-it notes. It’s like having a new mouse. The pads are extremely thin so there is no bump to brush your wrist (or spill your coffee), and they adhere slightly to the desk so they don’t shift on you. The pads I got are an ugly purple, but they’re the best thing next to more RAM. They retail for about $16, but they should make great gifts, especially if you need to mail them. Once you try one you won’t go back! [Mike Herron <[email protected]>]
Ran Barton <[email protected]> concurs:
Since I came across 3M’s Precision Mousing Surface, I think my Kensington 4-button mouse has met its equal. Despite its cost and 3M’s gimmicky claims, this pad really works for me, from pixel-by-pixel DTP work to dogfighting my F-18. I have converted family and work mates, and we all love it. So, this holiday season (if your many grateful and loyal readers need a new computer add-on and QuickCams and Yo-Yos seem pricey) give them 3M’s new mouse pad. They will thank you every time they use their computer.
The best tool for the over-50 set (there are many of us!) and for those with arthritis or other problems of the hand/arm is unquestionably the Kensington TurboMouse. The large trackball and the four programmable buttons make it easy and comfortable to use. And, if it’s this good for people with problems, it’s that much better for those trying to avoid those problems! It also saves space on a crowded desk since it doesn’t have to move around. (I have no connection whatsoever with Kensington other than a four-year love affair with their product.) [Helen N. Artz <[email protected]>]
George S. Franks <[email protected]> agrees:
A great gift for any Mac user would be the Kensington Turbo Mouse. I’ve had mine two years, and it’s a great space saver. It occupies a small space on my pull-out keyboard drawer and is fast and quiet.
Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers the Kensington TurboMouse 5.0 for $107.95 ($4 off) via the URL below.
Custom Mouse Pads — A number of people wrote in suggesting that you could take a photograph to a local copy shop or photo processing store and have the image imprinted on a mouse pad. Allen Dundek <[email protected]> said:
My favorite holiday gift is a mousepad with a favorite picture embossed on it. My wife gave me one last year with a picture of my mother and kids, and I enjoy it greatly. Though mine came through a mail order catalog, Kinko’s offers this service as well.
Ken Stuart <[email protected]> seconds the motion, noting:
It’s becoming easier and cheaper to have your own photographs copied onto mousepads. Without naming names, at least one inexpensive mail-based photo developing company even does this, and it can be done at over-the-counter developing locations too. Find a meaningful picture (perhaps "borrowed" for a while from the intended recipient without his/her knowledge) and get it shot onto the mousepad. Costs vary, but run from $10 to $15. If you want to get a whole set made for your office pals, perhaps the unit cost can be reduced.
An alternate possibility comes from Design Plus, a company that manufacturers quilt labels. Send them at least a 12" square piece of any fabric you like and they’ll cover a mousepad with it for you. If you can’t find a fabric you like, they also do custom text and graphics. The mousepads cost $7.50 plus $1.50 for shipping and handling. [ACE]
Wacom ArtPad II
My favorite computer-related gift for giving would be a Wacom ArtPad II graphics tablet. For receiving, it would probably be the Kensington TurboMouse or Insignia’s SoftWindows. [Dark85 <[email protected]>]
Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers the Wacom ArtPad II with Dabbler for $159.95 ($5 off) via the URL below.
Keyboards and Keyboard Drawers
Everyone should use an under-desk keyboard drawer for their desktop Mac. If the keyboard rests on the physical desk top, your fingers, wrists, and arms are often too high for typing. For $20 to $30 at the local office store or discount warehouse you will be set for life. As for what you put in the keyboard drawer – the $140 ALPS GlidePoint Keyboard is a genuine winner. The GlidePoint touchpad is sensational, a true "out of box experience." The left-thumb delete key is a gift in itself! [John Nemerovski <[email protected]>]
Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers the ALPS GlidePoint keyboard for $115.95 ($4 off) via the URL below.
Sundial looks like a perfect gift for one Mac friend I know. It replaces the desktop pattern with a scenic picture. So? That picture changes with the time of day! Their Web site has small QuickTime movies to show the effect. [I have to admit, of all the suggestions here, Sundial really caught my attention – I’m a sucker for unusual utilities. -Adam] [John Crossley <[email protected]>]
My choice is a $25 FaceSaver screensaver from Ultimate Software. I sent my wife’s favorite photo of her and her daughter to Ultimate and she now has a color screen saver which delights her every day. [Frank Manuel <[email protected]>]
Hubris Software offers a similar services for a similar price with MOSS, or My Own Screen Saver. Hubris Software’s Web site offers a clever hint request Web form that allows you to send an anonymous hint to someone else. [ACE]
Michelle Sund <[email protected]> suggests yet another alternative.
Last year I saw that Price Costco would make a customized screen saver using a dozen photos for about $10. Since I didn’t have a scanner at the time, I took some of the best shots from our recent trips to Yellowstone and Yosemite and had Price Costco do the work. I gave the screen saver to my husband last year as a Christmas gift. He loved it! I think that the photo service at Staples (Konica perhaps?) will actually make a screen saver at the time you develop your film. I wonder if they just scan the completed photos, or if perhaps they do it in another way that gives better resolution? So, that’s my idea! Something to remind us there is life away from our computers!
For those who would like to give a better look to someone’s Mac as a gift, I offer the following two suggestions. First, you must try the $20 shareware Kaleidoscope 1.0. It comes with a whole selection of color schemes, plus icons and other visual enhancements. For those who want even more icons, the iconfactory has a great selection of well done, free icons along various themes. [Marc Long <[email protected]>]
Seeing the World in Color
How about a color monitor for those of us still slaving away in front of grayscale or monochrome PowerBook? I love my 5300, but couldn’t afford a color screen when I bought it. Plugging one into the back would be the next best thing. [Especially since using the Web without color is almost impossible. -Adam]. I’m leaving this message on the screen so my wife will see it! [Doug Hormann <[email protected]>]
TelePort Speakerphone Edition
My suggestion is the new Global Village TelePort Speakerphone Edition modem. Along with all the standard modem features (and an upgrade path to 56 Kbps speeds some time in 1997), the device acts as a speakerphone even when your computer is turned off and enables full-duplex conversation and simultaneous voice and data transmissions. [Alfred S. Sacheli <[email protected]>]
Modem Surge Protector
For those who thought getting a computer would catapult them into the bleeding edge elite – as they recover from the seventh crash that evening: a mouse fashioned from the jawbone of an ass, to remind us all of our humble, and often more effective, heritage: "Stupid box of *&^%&^* circuits!" CRUNCH!
In all seriousness, however, I suggest a surge protector for the modem line. I’ve had two not-inexpensive links to the outside world blow in this little shack of dirty-powered horrors in which I now reside. Perhaps others could learn my lesson by putting one in now. I’m using a modified dedicated suppressor from Black Box, though I’ve seen them in power strips here and there and know that other companies make dedicated versions, such as the Tripp Lite DataShield. [Jonathan D. Sweet" <[email protected]>]
PageME! — Anyone who lives and dies by their alphanumeric pager should check out PageME!, a clever program from Mark/Space Softworks. PageME! enables you to create a little application that contains all your paging information. You can then give the application to anyone you want, and they can then easily send you messages via your pager. You can even password-protect the application so you can post it on a public Web site, say, and only let certain people send you pages.
Mark/Space is offering a special deal to TidBITS readers through 31-Dec-96 via the URL below – $59 for just the PageME Construction Kit (normally $79) or $99 for the PageME!/PageNOW! bundle (normally $129). [ACE]
My favorite gadget is a compact telephone cable called PocketNet. It is about two inches in diameter and one inch thick. Two RJ-11 modular (male) phone connectors pull out of it, unreeling up to 16 feet of ribbon cable to connect your laptop to the wall jack, and reeling itself in when disconnected. It is only available direct from Pilot Technologies in Minnesota for $15.95, or in bundles with additional accessories. There is something extremely satisfying about the way it retracts the cable into itself. (Don’t confuse this with a similar version that has the smaller handset plugs to take up slack between a phone handset and its cradle). [Stanley Karter <[email protected]>]
[This product has been renamed the CordMinder 16; the price remains the same, and details should appear shortly on the Web page below. -Geoff]
Sinkha is a multimedia graphic novel along the lines of Heavy Metal, an adult comic book, wherein a young girl is presented with the opportunity to escape the hellhole of a planet she was born on by joining some aliens, the Sinkha, who are intent on uncovering her planet’s secrets.
Marco Patrito, Sinkha’s author, has done a great deal of impressive work for this CD. In addition to writing the story, he rendered all of the images, people, background, and spaceships, using Strata Pro. He built QuickTime VR images, along with regular QuickTime movies and music to accompany the still and moving pictures. In addition, he and his cohorts have put together a Web site which has sample images, a half dozen QuickTime VR movies, and a detailed outline of the Sinkha universe.
This CD is inexpensive, running around $30, but the story is only a fragment of a larger story, as are most products of this type. For that reason, I think the Web site is mandatory for anyone interested in this kind of production. This CD is impressive, and it is Mac-only. It’s also the kind of work which you will want to share with everyone you know. I recommend it highly. [Jon Pugh <[email protected]>]
Some of us live denied our rightful former existence. For those who know that they should have been a fighter pilot blessed with the ability to zoom silently while blasting innocent creatures, I recommend Shatterbat. I’ve only begun to negotiate its many levels so the terrors that wait for me are still unknown, but even the drifting, deadly ball at the first level is delightful (I’ve identified it with Microsoft’s Bob, probably unfairly). The pilot is in a 3-D room with geometric objects spread throughout and bats flying on irregular paths through the space. A joystick makes the game far more manageable since one can maneuver in all dimensions while shooting with converging light streams that change their character as one catches canisters of additional capabilities. What makes the game exceptional is the fluidity of the programming and the ability to both see and fly in 3-D. This is the best arcade game I’ve seen. [James E. Mitchell <[email protected]>]
One program I use every day is a $15 piece of shareware by Chris Kidwell called WeatherTracker. It allows you to connect to an Internet weather server to get current weather in almost any country in the world information and forecasts for many cities in the U.S. and Canada. WeatherTracker requires a TCP-based Internet connection. [Adrianne Mackey <[email protected]>]
Card and Movie CD-ROMs
My favorite CD-ROM is called Anyone For Cards? by Capstone. It includes Gin Rummy, Cribbage, Pinochle, Hearts, Spades, Whist, Crazy 8s, Oh Hell, George, Euchre, 31, 99. There are 18 playing partners of different ages (even kids) and skill levels. It costs about $25; however, I did see it in one of those boxes of ten CD-ROMs for the Mac at local computer warehouse stores. Another favorite is the Cinemania 96 CD-ROM from Microsoft, which reviews movies and is updated monthly over the Internet. [Adrianne Mackey <[email protected]>]
As a gift for the public speaker or lecturer – including any businessman, academic, or scientist who goes to meetings – think of SpeechPrompter. It’s a software program that emulates a teleprompter on a laptop computer and allows the user to show graphics such as slides and movies to the audience while the speech scrolls for the speaker. The program is available both for Mac and for Windows, and it can save a bundle on making 35 mm slides. SpeechPrompter lists for $89.95 and can be ordered via the Web. [Al Feldzamen <[email protected]>]
Nisus Writer and a Newton
For my sister – a fellow Mac user – I’m getting the new Nisus Writer 5.0 (and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action too!). Me? I wish someone would get me a Newton MessagePad 2000 when they finally appear, hopefully bundled with a Newton version of FileMaker Pro. [Ala’a H. Jawad <[email protected]>]
Zip and Jaz Drives
The best gift for 1996 remains the Zip drive – it’s affordable, easily installable, and comes with back-up software that every Mac aficionado ought to run on a regular basis. For those on your gift list who already own a Zip drive, then a gift set of cartridges would be indeed be appreciated. Of course, if someone wants to give me a gift, I’d love a Jaz drive. [<[email protected]>]
Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers deals on the Zip drive ($189.95, $5 off, and there’s a $50 rebate), the Jaz drive ($489.95, $8 off), and single Jaz disks ($117.95, $5 off) via the URLs below.
OK, so it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you think "computer," but last year I gave Black & Decker cordless PowerDrivers to my friends who work on computers and to those who don’t. Without exception, every recipient has come to echo my own sentiment – "How did I ever get by without it?" [David Tilley <[email protected]>]
Personal Tech Support
Give that special Macintosh user in your life something he or she could really use – access for one year to a technical expert, someone who could actually tell you which parts of the Mac OS work, and which parts will just make life more difficult. Imagine being able to get useful information that will fix your problems as they occur, rather than forcing you to hunt and peck your way through endless FAQs. [Dan McAdam <[email protected]>]
The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the status symbols of the ’90s is having kids. But what’s the status symbol for the kids themselves? Having their own Web site, of course! My-Kids.com, a San Francisco-based company, wants to put your kids on the Internet. For $49 they’ll custom design a site using five photos of your bundle of joy and give you three months of access. Using a private password, relatives and friends can then pay electronic visits to little lambkins, leave messages, and not have to ransack the frequent flier miles. Parents supply the five photos along with the completed form. The photos are returned along with 15 URL password announcement cards to notify family and friends. The graphic creation, design, and photo scanning all utilize Mac technology. It rates as high-tech status and is a great gift, too. [hughesbaynes <[email protected]>]
My-Kids.com is offering a special deal to TidBITS readers via the URL below – 10 percent off the normal price of $49.95 for a final price of $44.95. [ACE]
Stocking stuffers for anyone who wants to learn HTML: After spending four hours in a computer bookstore looking for a good beginner to intermediate guide to HTML (and becoming brain numb from the dozens of 400+ page, $30 to $40 tomes on the subject) I found two excellent, short, inexpensive, and to-the-point reference books: HTML Visual Quick Reference by Dean Scharf, published by Que, and HTML Visual Quickstart Guide by Elizabeth Castro, published by Peachpit Press. Both were under $17; both were under two hundred pages. Both had similar layouts – each page or two-page spread covered one topic or HTML tag, gave clear, concise definitions of the HTML, told you exactly how to use it, showed you how to type it, and included screen shots of both the raw HTML code and what the page will look like in a browser. (And both were Mac-centric) Which one was better? I couldn’t decide, so I bought them both. [Eric Elfman <[email protected]>]
The perfect Christmas gift for the computer guru who has everything is a set of Grip-it Strips for use with their laptop or PowerBook. These strips are roughly textured, brilliantly colored strips with adhesive on the back for attaching to portable computers. (They feel sort of like rubber stickers.) They enable the user to get a better grip on their portable, and allow for individual expression and personalization of the PowerBook. I purchased my set from APS for around $18 and got strips in purple, teal, and black! [Rae Niles <[email protected]>]
Piñatas of Mr. Bill
For the truly strange folks on your list, consider bidding on a Gil Bates Piñata (you know, the paper mache things containing candy and little toys that you bash with a stick while blindfolded). There are only three piñatas for sale, and they’re being auctioned off to the highest bidders. Check the Web page for details. [Jon Pugh <[email protected]>]
Electronic Photo Albums
Here’s a gift idea – PictureAlbum from Media Minds. It lets users assemble digital photos into free form (designed any way they want) albums complete with backgrounds, text, even audio and video. There are applications for business and consumer such as wedding albums, vacation, team photos, yearbooks, baby books, etc. It’s easy to use and affordable at about $60. [Michael Robertson <[email protected]>]
We hope you’ve found this special issue of TidBITS useful in compiling a shopping list for your favorite Mac enthusiast (whether that be yourself or someone else!) and that, no matter what you may give or receive, these last weeks of 1996 are happy ones. Thanks!