Happy Holidays! We have once again collected a wide variety of gift suggestions from numerous TidBITS readers, so read on if you’re still trying to find the perfect gift for your Macintosh-using friends and relatives (or just hoping to beef up your own list at the last minute). See you in 2001!
Welcome to our 2000 Holiday Gift issue, which is brimming with great gift ideas from TidBITS readers via TidBITS Talk. Most are related to the Mac, as you might expect, but Macintosh users have wide-ranging interests, so we’ve also included a number of ideas that fit into the category of "For the Macintosh-Minded." Other categories are Hardware, Software, Games, and Miscellaneous, plus additional digital camera recommendations from Arthur Bleich. We hope you find these suggestions useful for finishing off your holiday shopping!
Staff — I’d also like to take this end-of-year opportunity to thank the people and organizations that make TidBITS possible each week. Quite frankly, a great deal of effort goes into creating and distributing TidBITS each week, much of it behind the scenes. Technical Editor Geoff Duncan edits every issue, handles all mail to <[email protected]>, keeps our article and TidBITS Talk archives running, and handles distribution each week; Managing Editor Jeff Carlson coordinates submissions from outside authors, builds and edits each issue, and creates whatever graphics we may need. Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg writes numerous detailed reviews for us, and Contributing Editor Mark Anbinder also provides articles and news items. It’s Tonya Engst’s work behind the scenes that keeps TidBITS financially viable. [And as publisher and chief bottle washer, Adam writes, edits, fiddles with servers, communicates with readers, coordinates sponsors, and tries to help move the industry in positive directions wherever possible. – Geoff and Jeff]
Infrastructure — Our Internet servers are spread far and wide, thanks to the generosity of various organizations. Our main Web and mailing list servers are hosted by digital.forest; our database server lives with the rest of the servers Geoff hosts; and WinStar Northwest Nexus not only hosts ftp.tidbits.com (which is now a full Info-Mac mirror as well as storing back issues of TidBITS in setext format), but also provides the dedicated Internet connection over which we serve TidBITS Talk and most of the translation mailing lists.
Sponsors — Of course, we’d all have to devote our time to pursuits other than TidBITS if it weren’t for the financial support provided by our sponsors, some of whom have supported TidBITS for many years. They include APS Technologies, Small Dog Electronics, Outpost.com, MacAcademy, Farallon, Aladdin Systems, Microsoft, digital.forest, Qarbon.com, Dantz Development, MyFonts.com, Digital River, and Blue World Communications. Our sincere thanks to these fine companies for enabling us to spend as much time as we do creating TidBITS each week.
Translators — It may not be obvious to most people, but the fact that TidBITS is translated into a variety of languages other than English each week is tremendously cool and unusual. Few, if any, other publications of our size publish in multiple languages, and we’re extremely happy to be able to provide TidBITS to an international audience in this fashion. It’s all possible only thanks to the selfless volunteers who devote their time to translating TidBITS each week – they have our eternal admiration and gratitude.
Readers — Finally, my personal thanks to all of you who read TidBITS and participate in TidBITS Talk. You really are the reason we do TidBITS at all, and you’re a special group: thoughtful, detailed, and caring. We may not have the largest readership in the world, but I’ll take the quality that’s clearly evident in our private email and in TidBITS Talk over raw quantity any day.
Enough with the encomiums, and on to the gift suggestions!
A Stylus Gift — Robin <[email protected]> recommends Wacom input tablets not only for artists but also for people with repetitive strain injuries. "Although it is a great tool for graphics, it’s also a great alternative for a mouse. I have both a mouse and a trackball, but my arm still gives me problems. To keep things moving, for a couple hours a day I switch over to my pen and pad. Wacom offers an online guide to help you pick the ‘right’ model for you. I took the quiz for fun, and sure enough it picked the own I own (the Intuos 6×8)!"
Turbo-Charge Your Input — Also keeping an eye on sore wrists, Keith Holzman <[email protected]> and Derek K. Miller <[email protected]> suggested two Kensington input devices. Keith reports: "I strongly recommend the Kensington TurboBall. It’s a USB trackball with four programmable buttons plus a scroll wheel. It has considerably eased minor arthritis pain and costs only about $60."
Derek’s Kensington choice brings USB support to a design recommended by several TidBITS readers over the years. "I’ve been waiting since the release of the iMac in 1998 to be able to make this recommendation: a Kensington Turbo Mouse (or other large-size Kensington trackball) in either USB or ADB flavours. The original ADB Turbo Mouse went through five versions and won many awards, all of them well deserved. My experience using one at my office is that it’s built like a tank, works smoothly, and is easy to clean. People have been wondering over the past two years when the company would release a USB version, and now there are several. It’s expensive, with a suggested retail of $110, but worth the price, in my opinion."
"For those who prefer even more gewgaws," he continued, "there is the Expert Mouse Pro. It’s the same as the Turbo Mouse ADB, but adds a bunch of programmable keys and a scroll wheel above the trackball itself. Oddly, it is cheaper than the Turbo Mouse ADB/USB at $100, probably because it is USB only. It works on both Macs and PCs."
If You’re All Thumbs… The Logitech TrackMan Marble Wheel offers another variant on mouse-less input. TidBITS Talk contributor List Kreme <[email protected]> writes, "It is the only pointing device that allows you to keep your entire arm completely stationary. No wrist, elbow, or shoulder movement. In short, no scrubbing with your whole arm. Your thumb moves the ball and the barest of finger movements clicks the buttons. ADB versions are no longer available, but there are both standard and cordless USB varieties."
"One note: the provided software works, but Alessandro Levi Montalcini’s shareware USB Overdrive works just as well and allows you to specify different button mapping sets for separate applications, a functionality that Logitech abandoned along with ADB."
Embrace and Extend Your Mouse — Mike Cohen <[email protected]> recommends Microsoft’s mouse offerings: "I’ve used Kensington mice for many years, but right now my favorite mouse is the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer. I really like having a scroll wheel, plus the thumb buttons are excellent for navigating in a Web browser." You might also check out the various mice Warren Magnus wrote about a year ago in "Pointing the Way with USB Mice."
More Gigs on the Go — Richard Wanderman <[email protected]> found an elegant way to boost the storage capacity of his PowerBook. "Because I travel with my computer and make presentations to large groups, I need to carry a complete bootable backup with me at all times. I finally broke down and bought a VST Expansion Bay Hard Drive (the 8 GB version, although they have much bigger ones). Even though it was expensive and only works in a PowerBook, I’m extremely happy with it. It uses Apple’s drivers and Apple’s Drive Setup, it’s hot-swappable, and it mounts immediately after you put it in. Backups of my 2 GB main partition take about 3 minutes now, compared to the longer times of my old system of using Zip media, and of course I can more easily boot from it should my main hard disk have problems."
Holiday Spirit Is in the Air — Juan C. Santiago <[email protected]> is looking out for the elves in his holiday workshop. "I plan to give my 50-person technology company an AirPort Base Station. It’s a great way to give Apple some visibility while providing an incredibly useful and productive function. Many colleagues already have wireless networks at home and hate being tied to their desk in our rapidly changing work environment. Most will be surprised to learn that Apple’s $300 AirPort Base Station works with Windows laptops using any of the wireless cards already on the market, taking the place of base stations focussed on use with Windows and costing $700 and up."
Wandering about Music? Glenn Fleishman <[email protected]> writes, "The Nomad Jukebox is the current ultimate incarnation of an MP3 player: it stores over 100 hours of compressed music (at the right quality, according to Creative.com, the manufacturer), weighs under a pound, comes with two sets of rechargeable batteries (about four hours of play time per recharge), has Mac and Windows software for transferring files over USB, and is about the size of a regular portable CD player. Its secret? A tiny 6 GB hard drive and very little RAM. The downside? It costs over $450. Early adopters should adopt it now. Those who like to wait a little while will certainly be rewarded: the sales of this unit and the continual drop in hard drive prices could shave hundreds off the price (or make it readily available in used form) within months."
The Paperless Office Recedes Again — Edward Reid <[email protected]> recommends picking up a more physical solution for working with your data. "Buy a used laser printer. Many people who are making do with inkjets would really prefer a laser printer. The older LocalTalk printers are going for about $25 to $75 at auction. For non-LocalTalk Macs you also need a Farallon iPrint, going for around $35-$50 at auction. Some of the older printers have parallel ports and work with PCs as well as Macs. The printers in this category are mostly straight 300 dpi – text looks great, but photographs do not print well. You can get toner cartridges cheap too – new ones, usually ones that have been sitting on the shelf for a few years."
"You might also know someone who has a laser printer that’s gathering dust because it needs a repair that’s predicted to cost more than the printer is worth. In that case, fix it for them with a kit from Laser Service."
Making the Switch — Kevin van Haaren <[email protected]> writes, "Just did a little Christmas shopping for myself. The Linksys EtherFast 10/100 Mbps 5 Port Auto-Sensing Switch ($70) is the biggest sticker shock I’ve had for a while. I remember just a few years ago when a five port 10/100 Mbps switch would have cost $1,000. Instant gratification on my home network: most of my Ethernet cards are already 100 Mbps, I’ve just been waiting for the price of a real switch to drop down."
Mike Cohen <[email protected]> also recommends a Linksys device. "I have a Linksys BEFSR41 cable/DSL router with built-in 4-port switch ($160 or less) and I love it. I’m using it to share my cable modem connection between my blue-and-white Power Mac G3, iBook, and a Compaq 5340. It’s my favorite piece of hardware that I purchased in the last year and it works beautifully. I highly recommend it to anyone who uses cable modem or DSL. One especially nice feature for DSL users is built-in support for PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE), so you don’t have to install any connection software on your computer."
In TidBITS-559, I highlighted my three favorite digital cameras I’ve used extensively in the two-to-four megapixel range. The cameras listed below are culled from many other digital cameras I’ve personally used, reviewed, and liked over the last year. If your favorite isn’t included, it only means I haven’t used it. They’re listed first by number of pixels and then alphabetically by name, with a special section for boutique cameras at the end.
One-Megapixel — These cameras are great if you’re starting out and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a digital camera, particularly if you’re not sure how much you’ll be using it.
Epson PhotoPC 650: It has a poor LCD monitor image and no optical zoom, but it does feature a threaded mount for auxiliary lenses, USB support, and both NTSC and PAL video out. It’s a good starter camera for just $300.
Fuji MX-1200: Although it lacks automatic focus and optical zoom (digital zoom is worthless), it’s a bargain at $235. (Look in the "Prosumer" digital imaging products on Fuji’s Web site.)
Olympus D360L: This camera is all-around excellent with great image quality and a terrific feature-set, though no optical zoom. A "Best Buy" at $300.
Two-Megapixel — Consider a two-megapixel camera if you want higher quality images and are willing to jump up a level in price. The last camera in the list, the Olympus C2500L, features two-and-a-half megapixels.
Casio QV2000UX: This $600 camera features an f-2.0 lens and flexibility, with shutter and aperture priority. USB and serial connections give some versatility for downloads. Also, it’s only $800 with the 340 MB IBM Microdrive, which not all cameras support.
Kodak DC3400: Successor to the great 240 and 280 Kodak cameras, it’s probably the best and easiest-to-use digital camera in the $500 price range
Olympus C2000/2200 Zoom: Loaded with features but harder to learn than the Kodak DC3400, this $800 camera’s image quality is outstanding and its f-2 lens is excellent in low light.
Olympus C2500L: In a class by itself, the huge 2/3-inch CCD of this $1,100 camera yields better image quality than most three-megapixel cameras. It’s also an SLR (single lens reflex); you view your intended image through the lens, but cannot preview it on the LCD monitor, which isn’t a drawback in my mind.
Three-Megapixel — The three-megapixel cameras appeal to the serious amateurs who are willing to pay more for increased quality and features, but who can’t justify jumping to the level of the semi-pro Camedia E-10, above.
Casio QV-3000EX: Almost identical to its two-megapixel sibling mentioned above, this $800 camera has a complete feature set. Again, it’s only $1,000 with the IBM Microdrive.
Nikon CoolPix 990: Although the image quality on this well-liked camera is excellent, you either like its ergonomics (the two-part body rotates so you can view the LCD while photographing at odd angles) or you don’t. Try one out before you commit to this $1,000 camera.
Olympus C3000/3030 Zoom: Upgraded to a higher resolution than the C2000/2020 series, this $1,000 camera unfortunately lost its f-2.0 lens and now has an f-2.8, which doesn’t handle low light levels as well.
Boutique Digital Cameras — Finally, we come to the boutique cameras, which are mostly notable for being truly tiny. Small size is not just a gimmick though, since it doesn’t matter how good the pictures from a digital camera are if it’s too large to carry with you comfortably. Some people even have two digital cameras, a large model for serious work where quality is all-important and one of these itty-bitty guys for snapshots.
Kodak DC3800. Small, with richly saturated color images, this two-megapixel camera is easy to use and a "Best Buy" if you want a diminutive digital camera at the diminutive price of $500.
Sony DSC-P1: This $800 camera is an absolutely to-die-for little jewel which, despite Sony’s lousy 90-day warranty is worth dangling from your wrist for the looks you’ll get. It takes great pictures, too!
[Arthur H. Bleich is a photographer, writer, and educator who lives in Miami and is Feature Editor of Digital Camera Magazine. He has done assignments for major publications both in the U.S. and abroad, and conducts Digital Photography Workshop Cruises for Zing.com. Arthur also invites you to click in to his Digital PhotoCorner for more on digital cameras.]
Build It, and They Will Beep — David Huston <[email protected]> is after our own hearts in recommending software which enables users to make their Macs do that they want. "A great gift for your Mac-using friends is the little-known Swiss Army knife of multimedia authoring, iBuild, which enables just about everyone to produce professional multimedia projects with next to no effort. iBuild teaches you and provides drag & drop examples you can use as you go – you can learn 80 percent of its features in just a few hours, and (to make things even easier for newcomers) iBuild offers four different levels of complexity, so it doesn’t assault you with scads of tabs and palettes which turn out to be sadly confusing and frustrating. As you learn more, you access progressively more sophisticated batteries of features.
"For example, my son was having trouble with his spelling tests at school, so I used iBuild to construct a spelling quizzer that plays back my recorded voice for the words and hints, scores each page, and then tallies the results and presents them as a dynamic bar graph. The quizzer also sends me a report of how he does each day via email. This took me three hours to build, tops. Things like this can be done with HyperCard, SuperCard, Flash, Director, and the like, but you better learn their scripting languages fast. My project required no scripting or programming, just easy selection of object properties (although iBuild uses AppleScript as its scripting language, so if you want to do programming, you can). And iBuild has this great advantage over competing products: it costs just $20!"
We Be Jammin’ — Lorin Rivers <[email protected]> recommends Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP: "I like SoundJam because it’s a multi-purpose tool for playing music, sharing music, and all-around enjoyment. The CD player is good, and the MP3 player is awesome, as is the ripper, which converts CDs or other audio to MP3 format. Casady & Greene updates it often and a version of it is even available for Mac OS X Public Beta. Buy a copy for the music-loving Mac geek on your list today!" SoundJam MP costs $50, while SoundJam MP Free is available for free and offers all the features of the full version for 14 days, after which it still continues to provide playback and a subset of SoundJam’s other features.
Keep It in the Family — The end-of-year holidays often center around family activities, and David Kanter <[email protected]> recommends software that helps sort out families and their history. "I’m back to endorse Leister Productions’ Reunion, the $90 family tree software for Macintosh. Reunion remains the preeminent tool for genealogy on the Mac – and is head and shoulders above any other program on any platform! Reunion is an easy-to-use, flexible program which helps you organize family information and produce a wide range of customizable charts and reports. Even genealogy veterans should look at Reunion – it can import and export data using the GEDCOM format, so converting an existing database into Reunion is usually easy. Version 7 adds a host of new and enhanced features from which even beginners will benefit, and which warrant an upgrade from an earlier version."
Barry Wainwright <[email protected]> recommends GedItCom: "GedItCom is a full-featured customizable genealogical database program. It’s Mac-native, but unlike Reunion (and similar databases) it uses GEDCOM as its native file format (so there’s no importing, exporting, or translation required) and it can handle tags to any depth of nesting. It costs $50 and is worth every penny."
Calendars in the Background — Overwhelmed by PIMs? Check out Brain-Sucker Productions’ $10 shareware Background Calendar, which returns to a low-tech approach to calendaring. All it does is create a picture for the current month using the fonts, styles, and colors you select, after which it tells the Appearance (or Desktop Pictures) control panel to use the calendar image as a desktop picture. It can even draw on top of your existing desktop picture. Want to add notes to specific days? Just use Apple’s Stickies utility, which ships with every Macintosh. Cleverness doesn’t always mean fancy code, and as the Background Calendar Web page says, everyone needs a calendar, but not everyone needs a scheduling program.
Cro-Mag Rally — List Kreme <[email protected]> wrote in part to warn people away from Risk II because of its "horrible and thoughtless" interface. Far more attractive, however, was Cro-Mag Rally, which he felt looked like a lot of fun. "The game is hard, but it looks gorgeous, the action is fast, the response is good and the idea is pretty cool." In the game, you play a speed-hungry caveman who races through the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages in primitive vehicles armed with a variety of primitive weaponry. It offers modes for one player, two players on the same computer, and up to six players on a network.
Pod Racer — Forget the trench scene from Star Wars – for speed freaks nothing beats the pod race in Star Wars, Episode I. Either way, Chris Hanson <[email protected]> recommends "Star Wars Episode I Racer," better known among his friends as "pod racer." It’s another racing game, but this time you’re rocketing your vehicle at 600 miles per hour. It only runs on PowerPC G3-based systems, but "it’s inexpensive, very easy to play, supports LAN and (with GameRanger) Internet play, and addicting." If you thought the pod racing scene was the best part of the movie, you’ll find yourself in a galaxy far, far away for hours on end.
Gridz — When your adrenaline has hit its peak levels from pod racing, Chris also recommends Gridz from Mac-centric publisher Green Dragon Creations. "Gridz is a great action-strategy territory-capture game. Kids really take to it, and it’s fun for all ages. Your goal is to capture territory and destroy your opponents by fencing off portions of a grid and building robots which ‘activate’ the tiles you’ve fenced off, and which can attack your opponents’ robots and fences. The more tiles you have fenced off, the more energy you generate and the more robots you can build."
iPoker — Some would argue that the greatest achievement attained by personal computers is automatic card deck reshuffling (can you deny that Solitaire is probably the most-launched Windows application?). If you’re looking for higher stakes, Gordon Meyer <[email protected]> recommends checking out iPoker 2000 by Scenario Software. "iPoker plays about 80 different poker games, has good graphics, and is very Mac-like. As a casual player, it is very easy to use and provides a great way to learn and enjoy the game. For more serious players, there are plenty of advanced features that will help you in betting and strategy. Everyone I’ve shown this game to, even if they’re not a card player, has been very impressed."
Freeverse Card Games — Another fan of card games is Conrad M. Hirano <[email protected]>, who recommends choosing from Freeverse Software’s selection of card games. You can play against the computer or challenge other players online via the HMS Freeverse Server. The games offer a tutoring mode for novices, as well as popular variations of each game. "I’ve played only Spades and Hearts, but Freeverse also has versions of Euchre, Cribbage, and others, and has just recently released a Bridge game. These games may not appeal to those users demanding the adrenaline rush from the latest action game, but I’ve found these games addicting. I’ve been up late numerous nights battling it out on the card table with other night owls."
Fly Your Own Warthog: A-10 — You don’t need the biggest and fastest Mac to enjoy a good game. Hank Harken <[email protected]> takes to the sky with a now-classic flight simulator, Parsoft’s A-10 Attack and A-10 Cuba. "Bored with tooling around the sky and looking at the landscape in a regular flight simulator? Liven things up: have someone shoot at you, make decisions on weapons loadouts, learn to use laser guided weaponry, try to survive unfriendly neighbors, and more. These two flight simulators will run on 68040-based Macs (slow), but will nicely complement your iMac.
"Even better, you can get these as part of special game bundles. For example, A-10 Cuba is included on Starplay Productions Inc.’s 10 Tons of Fun game bundle. They’re not recent releases but have given me lots of challenging diversion. Even repeatedly playing the same scenario never seems exactly the same twice. Get two copies of A-10 Cuba and go head-to-head against your buddy in network combat. My only complaint is that the manual tells you how to operate everything in the aircraft and how to set and launch weapons, but there is no tactical information, i.e. best practices in using the aircraft and its weapons in combat situations, something in which I expect every Air Force pilot is trained. Let’s just say that you’ll lose many virtual lives during your OJT (on the job training)."
The Sims — Looking to make someone who doesn’t typically like video games miserably addicted to their computer? Give them a copy of The Sims, a sort of role-playing, real-life "adventure" that’s a logical progression from SimCity. Instead of managing people in aggregate (in the form of industries, building, and so on) as in SimCity, you manage individuals. Choose or make a family, build a house, help them find jobs, and then take off the mundane details like washing dishes and frying burgers on the BBQ. The Mac version, through the developer Aspyr, offers add-ons to the game, such as potted plants, a pinball machine, and other items one can buy (sort of like the original Wheel of Fortune). A new add-on pack called The Sims: Livin’ Large, adds a variety of new building styles, decoration ideas, and characters, including the grim reaper. "Just ask my girlfriend about the ‘miserably addicted’ part," says Glenn Fleishman <[email protected]>. "The TV ads are brilliant. And beware the hamster; that’s all I’ll say." System requirements are high: a PowerPC G3-based Mac or better is needed, along with lots of RAM and hard disk space.
Deus Ex — First-person shooter games like Doom or Duke Nukem can feel flat after a while: enter room, shoot everything that moves, move on to next room. For more of a thinking-person’s action game, try Jeff Carlson’s <[email protected]> latest addiction Deus Ex. You portray the role of a nanotechnology-augmented secret agent in the near future, gradually unraveling a myriad of conspiracies. There’s plenty of action, but the game also calls for times when creeping quietly in the shadows is the best defense against the bad guys. Like others of its ilk, Deus Ex prefers plenty of hardware (at least a PowerPC G3-based Mac with lots of RAM).
The Settlers of Catan — Rick Holzgrafe <[email protected]> suggests a non-computer game that is a family favorite: The Settlers of Catan. He writes, "This is a board game for three to four people – happily my wife and I have two kids of the right age, so the game is perfectly sized for us. The board represents an island with various areas that produce grain, ore, lumber, and so on. Players start out with single settlements and try to expand their colonies by judicious use of resources. Points are awarded for various accomplishments and the winner is the first to reach ten points.
"The Settlers of Catan is an award-winning game with a number of innovative features. For example, although players take turns rolling dice and getting things done in the usual way, every roll of the dice gives every player something to do even if it’s not their turn. This keeps the game constantly interesting; nobody gets bored waiting for their turn. Another interesting point is that the ‘board’ is actually made of a couple of dozen separate tiles; during setup the tiles are shuffled before being laid out, so you get a different board every time.
"Settlers of Catan is a strategy game with an element of luck. The box says ‘ages 12 and up’ and the rules are somewhat complex. But our 9-year-old plays a killer game and we’ve long since stopped giving him handicaps. We adults find it fascinating and we play as enthusiastically as the kids. Games take up to two hours to complete. Two people could play but it’s really best with at least three. Strongly recommended!"
Lift Your ‘Book — Several readers recommended products that make using a PowerBook or iBook easier. To keep your lap from getting scorched, Shawn King <[email protected]> uses the Podium CoolPad from RoadTools. The CoolPad, a swiveling stand that allows air to help cool laptops, has appeared in previous gift issues; the new Podium CoolPad adds risers for increasing the keyboard tilt angle.
George Simpson <[email protected]> suggests the LapStand, "a lightweight, metal device that quickly unfolds to become a portable desktop. It’s easy to carry around (I use it in overcrowded conference rooms when I don’t get a seat at the big table), and it is steadier than your lap. Plus, it doesn’t toast your thighs!"
Help Your Eyes on Red-Eye Flights — A PowerBook or iBook screen is plenty bright when working in low-light conditions, but the same doesn’t apply to the keyboard. To shed a little illumination on your laptop’s keys or the immediate surrounding area – without turning on an overhead light – consider Greg Zeren’s gift suggestion: the $20 Kensington FlyLight Notebook USB Light, a small flexible lamp that plugs into a USB port. Power drain is minimal, and the LED light won’t burn out like ordinary light bulbs.
Solution for Graffiti Problems — For those who don’t like to write Graffiti into a Palm OS device, or just have too much data to enter, Mike Rohde <[email protected]> puts the foldable keyboard at the top of his list. Originally developed by ThinkOutside, the keyboard is available from two resellers: Targus sells a version for Handspring Visor devices, while Palm sells the Palm Portable Keyboard for its handhelds. It’s a full-sized keyboard with excellent key action, but folds down to roughly the size of a Palm III or Visor.
Freedom of the CafePress — Although it’s a tad too late to get TidBITS t-shirts from CafePress.com delivered before Christmas, you can probably still get one delivered in time for sartorial splendor at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Or, if you’re looking for another design that combines a Macintosh attitude with a comment on the election brouhaha in Florida, Kathy Berens <[email protected]> recommends the timely "Vote Different" t-shirt at CafePress.com.
A Helping Hand in the Dark — We love simple, handy tools that make us wonder why we didn’t think of such obvious solutions. Avi Rappoport <[email protected]> tracked down the Nite Ize Flashlite Friend. "This tchotchke is truly darling and useful (despite the annoying spelling). It’s a small sleeve that attaches bendable legs to Mag-Lite flashlights, then you can stand the light on a table, attach it to your sleeve, etc. Because there are four legs, it ends up looking like a little critter and is fun to play with – we expect they’ll be a big hit at our family holidays. You get can get the Flashlite Friend at hardware stores or from many small Web sites such as MEI Research’s Action-Lights.com."
Goodbye TV Guide — One of the more active threads in TidBITS Talk has centered on the new category of digital television recorders. Andrew Laurence <[email protected]> writes, "After the long discussion of TiVo and ReplayTV some readers may be contemplating one of these for Christmas. For the last several weeks, Mercata has been offering the 30-hour Philips TiVo as a PowerBuy. Suggested retail is $400, but it often finishes around $330. And through the end of the year, TiVo is offering a $99 rebate on the hardware purchase, once you activate the TiVo service."
He continues, "What’s amazing about TiVo is that folks really do become converts – much like Macintosh users. It’s also similarly hard to describe why it’s so different. At a party last month, a guy asked me what the big deal was. I began by telling him that it’s hard to describe and that you have to live with it to understand its implications, and then ran down my litany of reasons why TiVo is wonderful. Twenty minutes later, he still only cared about whether or not it automatically removes commercials."
Although Adam and Tonya are extremely happy with their TiVo as well, the ReplayTV is equally well-liked by many others.
Wake Up Calls — Apple’s inclusion of quality Bose speakers in its iMac and G4 Cube machines may tempt Mac users to look for better sound quality in other areas. "High end audio for every room is becoming more and more popular," says Warren Magnus <[email protected]>. "A recent trip to the Sharper Image store in Seattle revealed the Nakamichi Sound Space 3. Now, while $300 may seem a bit steep for a clock radio, the fact that this dual alarm unit features displays for both night stands and a subwoofer in addition to its truly excellent sound makes it more a high end stereo for the bedroom than a mere wake-me-in-the-morning device."
Striking a similar tone, Alan Forkosh <[email protected]> offered his own recommendation. "Another table radio with a separate clock and excellent sound is the Cambridge Soundworks Model 88 Table Radio, and the Clock Control 88. The radio features two stereo speakers and adjustable subwoofer with both RCA and miniplug jacks for a CD or tape player. The digital clock features two alarm/buzzer settings, a snooze control, and a delayed shut-off control, plus a thin remote control. The unit retails for $200 with the clock unit $50 more, though I’ve seen the base unit on sale for as low as $150. I have been using the radio as my bedroom clock radio for the last year and have nothing but good thoughts."
Radical Gadgets — Our friends at Xplain Corporation (publishers of MacTech Magazine and the NetProfessional press release distribution list) have branched out with their new site RadGad. Based entirely on Macs, RadGad carries a variety of carefully selected gifts and gadgets along the lines of cool flashlights, pocket tools with an unimaginable number of blades, and useful personal electronics. Although relatively few of the items RadGad carries are related to computers, many have clearly been selected with the mentality of computer people in mind. RadGad is by no means comprehensive, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re having trouble thinking of what to get someone on your list. Use the link below to receive discounted prices exclusively for TidBITS readers!
Too Much Stuff? Robin <[email protected]> writes, "With all the new stuff, many of us most likely have some old stuff that will never be used again. Like t-shirts, we appear to collect too much of a good thing. The National Cristina Foundation will be happy to take any unwanted computers, peripherals, and legal software, and give it to someone who can’t afford to buy it. I got a Power Mac G4 for my birthday, and going from a 6400/180 to a G4 meant lots of cables I would no longer need. The National Cristina Foundation was happy to take them. (The computer went to a local person I knew that needed one). If Santa is nice to me this year I might get to donate my good old pair of UMAX S-12 scanners and the 2X JVC CD-R. What is old for us can bring a new smile to someone else."
Online Giving — The Web has made it easier to shop and purchase gifts online, but it’s also become a conduit for charitable donations. Rich Gorringe <[email protected]> writes, "As Bill Gates said recently, computers won’t provide clean water to most of the world’s population. I have given Seva Foundation gifts in the past, and feel good about the double gift that each expenditure provides." Seva gifts include monetary donations that go toward educating and improving the health of women in Guatemala, community grants for Native Americans, and more.
There are a variety of other gifts along these lines, like the Heifer Project, which uses donations to provide needy families in impoverished nations with farm animals from which to derive food and income. It’s an excellent approach to helping people help themselves.
Another option is to use a charity affiliate program when shopping for products online. GreaterGood.com provides links to many major online stores, and a host of charities. When you purchase gifts, a percentage of your order is donated to the charity of your choice.
Finally, though we’re not a charitable organization, contributions to help TidBITS maintain editorial excellence and independence are always welcome! Plus, if you help support TidBITS, you can purchase TidBITS t-shirts, sweatshirts, mousepads, and mugs at a discount, receive a listing on our Contributors page, and have your name appear at the top of a future issue of TidBITS.