Computing with Bifocals - Nancy's (Alternate) Holiday Gift Guide
- November 30th, 2005
It's easy to plan to give an iPod or a Shuffle or a Nano as a holiday gift, but what if you want to go in another direction, or can't afford something quite that expensive? In this column I have a few alternate suggestions for computer related gifts that you might want to consider. In addition, I have a blatant plug for the most recent revision of my manual, Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X.
Belkin USB2 7 Port Hub.
I recently purchased one of these hubs for my own use when I needed to upgrade from a USB1 to a USB2 hub for speed of transmission. USB2 devices are 40 times faster than USB1 devices. A USB hub is a device that allows many other USB devices to be connected to a single USB port. Anyone who has a scanner, a printer, a digital camera, an external hard drive, etc. soon needs a hub because there are so few USB ports available on most of our computers. My PowerBook G4 only has two USB ports and I use a regular keyboard and mouse with it -- there go my two ports right there.
I realized I needed to upgrade when my fancy Matias tactilepro keyboard started acting weird. For no apparent reason it would start typing in all caps in the middle of a sentence. The Matias folks suggested the upgrade and it solved the problem.
This hub is a beauty in every sense of the word. It is sleek and compact (5.5" by 4" by .5"). I use the five ports along the front for everyday things like my printer, backup hard drive, etc., and use the two on top for anything I use occasionally such as my memory stick. Anyone who has ever had to crawl around behind their computer to find a hub at the back of a cluttered desk so they could plug in a camera or some other attachment, will appreciate the ease of use that this design presents.
Shop around for the best deal. I got mine, brand new, on eBay for much less than $49.99.
Belkin USB2 Hub
For Mac® Users: Supports low- (1.5Mbps), full- (12Mbps), and high-speed (480Mbps) modes on PowerMac computers equipped with a USB 2.0 upgrade card and OS 10.2.7 and above.
For PC Users: Pentium® processor-based computer with USB 2.0 port available, Windows® 98 SE, 2000, Me, or XP
|Price: US$49.99 (US$31.87 - Amazon)|
Compatible with USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 devices
A Super Duper Power Strip
My next suggestion may sound strange upon first hearing, but it really is a great gift for anyone who has lots of gadgets. I saw this in a friends home office and thought it was great. It is a power strip, but not your usual power strip.
For one thing it is 4 feet long with hooks for hanging on the wall. My friend has his hanging on the wall behind his computer desk. There are no wires or cords tangled on the floor under his desk. Next, the 12 outlets are spaced 3 inches apart. That means you can plug in those pesky power bricks without taking up more than one plug space to do it. It comes in black or white.
It is available in a 3 foot, 9 outlet model as well.
Syntech 4 Foot Power Strip
4 ft Durable Metal Housing Power Strips
(not available for export)
I have only found this item at Fry's Electronics. Syntech does not appear to have a web site.
A Desktop Hard drive
A desktop hard drive can be used to backup data or it can be used as an overflow resource. I actually have one for each case. I have too much stuff on my PowerBook for it to run smoothly. I now keep all my documents on a desktop hard drive that is constantly connected to my laptop as long as I am at home. It is actually a seamless process to work between the external hard drive and my regular hard drive.
I also have an additional hard drive that functions as a back up receptacle. If you are buying a hard drive to be used for backing up your data, the safest thing to do is make sure the unit you purchase has a FireWire interface and an Oxford 911 chip set. That will meet the needs of whatever backup software your gift recipient may be using. The brands in the examples noted below are all good, reliable brands. As you can tell from this random example, prices vary considerably and you can usually find items like this on sale at electronics stores or on line.
Both of my hard drives were received as gifts and they were very welcome gifts, especially since the givers also set them up for me.
($101 - Amazon)
|Western Digital 80GB USB 2.0
($96.14 - Amazon)
($94.04 - Amazon)
($121.59 - Amazon)
|Western Digital 250GB
A Flash Drive
Another form of an external hard drive is a USB flash drive, also commonly called a memory stick. They weigh about the same as a car key and are about the size of a stick of gum. A typical USB flash drive can hold up to 2 GB of data. That is over 650 three minute songs (33 hours). USB drives offer a quick and easy way to store and share information. It is much faster to save to a flash drive than to a CD or DVD and they are reusable so they are more practical for copying something you know you don't want to keep permanently. It is possible to find them at prices as low as US$20, particularly around the holidays, but the amount of available memory will be limited.
Anyone with an iPod Shuffle will not want one, because their Shuffle will do everything the flash drive will do, but for others, it can be a nice little gift.
|PQI Cool Drive 2GB
|SanDisk Cruzer 1GB
($65.98 - Amazon)
|Crucial Gizmo! 512 MB
($59.88 - Amazon
|Lexar JumpDrive Secure 1GB
($74.99 - Amazon)
Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners
And now for that blatant plug for my manual that I mentioned. I have written a manual called Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners that covers tips, hints, problems and solutions that I have discovered writing this column. It also includes keyboard shortcuts and recommendations for some of my favorite applications, and I periodically update it as appropriate.
This most current update addresses a special chapter for Tiger users as well as some great new application recommendations. The manual has grown to 97 pages so my printing costs have risen. This means I have to increase the price for a printed version (paper cover, spiral bound). The download version remains the same. The printed version is in black and white. Anyone who has previously purchased a copy of the manual will receive a free copy of all the changes by e-mail. The Table of Contents and several sample pages are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them.
Cost for the printed version is $18.15 each, plus shipping ($4.00 in the U.S.) .The PDF download version is available for $9.57. Payment for either must be made using PayPal. Clicking on the Buy Now button next to the version you want to purchase will take you directly to PayPal where you can place your order and make your payment. Payment can be made through PayPal even if you are not a PayPal member. If you have any questions you can contact me at .
|To purchase the Download version at $9.57 click on this Buy Now Button and follow the directions.
||To purchase the Printed version at $18.15 plus shipping, click on this Buy Now button and follow the directions.|
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
|Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.
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