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Geek Gifts

Susan Ives is a former president of Alamo PC.


Each year Alamo PC provides gift suggestions for your holiday giving. Not all of these are small or inexpensive enough to be stocking stuffers, but they are new, interesting and off-beat items that earn you a big geeky smile any time of the year.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Battery charger
Figure 1 Digital camera EAT batteries. If someone is still feeding the AA battery monster, a charger (this one is $24.99 at Radio Shack, NiMH batteries included) can pay for itself in just a few photo cycles. Also works on Ni-Cd batteries. Be sure to check though – all of my digital cameras take proprietary battery packs and \ I no longer need one of these gizmos. This version comes with an adapter than can also charge AAA batteries (not included, but available for about $10 at Radio Shack.) (fig. 1)

Camera LCD protector
Figure 2 Digital cameras have a delicate LCD screen that can get scratched. Now that I have a tiny digital camera – a Pentax Optio S4i (it’s so small it fits in an Altoids tin!) - I worry more about screen damage. A perfect solution is a screen protector. This pack from Fellowes costs about $13 and contains 6 each 1.6 x 1.20 and 6 each of 1.10 x .80 and should fit most cameras. They are intended to be changed about once a month. Versions are also available for Camcorders. (fig. 2)

Mini Tripod
Figure 3 Everyone with a digital camera, still or video, needs a tripod. I’ve been searching for the perfect one and now have four: none perfect, but I’m getting there. This Goldilocks is still looking for one that’s just right. I have a big Slik tripod that works great locally, when I’m slinging video stuff around in my car. It has a quick release platform so I can quickly remove the camera for a handheld shot and it’s really stable. It doesn’t fit in my suitcase, though, so I bought a slightly smaller Slik travel tripod. This one fits in my 22” suitcase (I travel light) but, at 16”, not in my camera backpack. So I bought a no-name tripod at Big Lots one day. At 9” it fits in the camera bag, but it’s flimsy. I can carry it everywhere but have to watch it like a hawk. I’ve had a mini-tripod like this one from REI for decades. You can use it on a table, or with the attached Velcro® strap, hitch it to a tree or pillar. At $10 it’s a bargain. Stroll through a camera store and have a look at the tripods: there are a lot of options. (fig. 3)

Cheap Digital Camera
Figure 4 I love my Minolta Dimage digital camera but it’s big. I needed a camera I could carry all the times without toting around a camera bag, so I got a tiny Pentax Optio S4i for $325. A little pricey for a stocking stuffer, but there are cheaper options. Shown here is a SmartMini Cam, Only $30 from The Yahoo Store or buy two for $55. This is the lowest of the lowest end: it doesn’t have an LCD for instant playback, it only holds 80 photos (16MB internal memory) and the resolution is low, really only acceptable for on-screen images. But the price! The size! You can carry this with you everywhere (it’s hooked to a keychain), and it can work as a Webcam if you need one. It comes with all of the software and cables that you need and is easy enough for a child to use. (fig. 4)

8-in-one card reader
Figure 5 If you travel with a digital camera, this is a must-have device. Plug it into the USB port and it works without any software drivers. You can download your photos without draining your camera battery, and work from an Internet café or hotel business center without worrying about whether you have the right software or cables. This one from Crucial reads CompactFlash Type I/II; IBM Microdrive ; SmartMedia ; MultiMediaCard; Secure Digital; Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro (1 bit). It costs $18 from Crucial but there lots of different brands and options. (fig. 5)

Polaroid Digital Photo Printer
Figure 6 Can you believe it - $30 at Ritz Camera! Polaroid’s P-500 Digital Photo printer allows you to print photographs anywhere, anytime -- without a computer! Simply insert a CompactFlash or SmartMedia card directly into the printer via a memory card adapter. (P-500 includes a SmartMedia adapter), choose the image or images you want to print, and push a button for instant full color continuous tone prints in about 20 seconds. The Polariod P-500 printer uses Polaroid Type 500 instant film packs which also contain the battery pack needed to power the printer. No addition power source or cables are needed. Get the printer at Ritz Camera. The film packs (2.86 x 2.15 inch image area) cost $20 for 20 sheets. (fig. 6)

MUSIC

SkullCandy Link
Figure 7 So you want to listen to your MP3 player and talk on your cell phone at the same time? What a geek! You need the Skullcandy link, which is a device that links your cell phone and audio device to one set headset. You can get it with headphones, earbuds or a universal jack to use your own headphones. The link is phone-centric, so go to the SkullCandy site and order a set for your specific mobile phone. The bundle will set you back about $80 without the earbud or headphone, $114 with. (fig. 7)

Car cassette adapter
Figure 8 The mobile cassette adapter from Belkin easily connects your portable MP3, CD, cassette player, PC, or laptop to your car stereo, through your car's in-dash cassette player. Get it for $24.95 from Belkin or at Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Office Depot or Office Max. (fig. 8)

Mobile FM Transmitter
Figure 9 Here’s an even better solution! This handy device plugs into anything that has a headphone jack – from your MP3 player to your desktop PC – and broadcasts the audio onto any FM radio – your top of the line stereo or the FM radio in your car dashboard. It’s got a pretty tight operating range – 30 feet max, with 10 feet giving you the best signal - but that’s fine for most applications. Get the Tunecast Mobile II from Belkin for $39.99. It’s also available at the big box stores. (fig. 9)

MP3 Player
Figure 11 I like the Rio Carbon; read about it at Digital Networks. It goes head-to-head with the Apple iPod, gives you 5 GB of memory and is compatible with audible audio (talking books) format Audible. My research tells me that this is more PC-friendly than the iPod and is a cinch to set up. If $250 (ouch!) is too much, look at a USB flash player. The one pictured is only $24 and comes with 128MB internal memory, an FM player and earbud, plus it accepts 7 kinds of media cards (SecureDigital card, miniSD, MultiMedia Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick Pro and xD card). Get it from Computer Geeks. (fig. 11)

iTunes gift certificate
Figure 12 Does someone on your gift list already have an MP3 player? Then think about a gift certificate or a prepaid tune card, available in amounts for $10-$200. Buy the gift certificates online at iTunes and they will mail them to you, or for immediate gratification pick up a prepaid card at any Target store. A song costs 99 cents; they have more than 70 million songs and 5,000 audiobooks for download. (fig. 12)

Cassette Tape Drive
Figure 13 Use the PlusDeck 2 to archive your old cassette into digital media files for playback on your PC. Or better yet, archive your favorite audio files or streams onto cassette - perfect for playback in your car without an in-dash CD player. It fits in an unused 5.25" drive bay and included recording software for Win95/98/ME/XP. Get it from Think Geek for $150. (fig. 13)

Wireless Headphones
Figure 14 Our house is small by today's standards, and the stereo is in the living room, along with the TV. During the day that's not a problem: I just crank up the volume and listen to NPR or my CDs from my office. As soon as John gets home, though, the stereo gets turned off. These wireless headphones by Sennheiser have a range of 100 meters, the length of a football field. Just plug the wireless transmitter into the stero or TV and start listening. You don't need line-of-site to the transmitter: they go through ceilings and walls. You can wear them while you're doing the gardening or even visiting the neighbors. Get them for $90 from Sennheiser or locally at Bjorn's or Circuit City. (fig. 14)

LAPTOP ACCESSORIES

Universal Laptop Power Supply
Figure 15 Kensington’s universal power supply will recharge and power up a laptop anywhere – from a wall socket, a car lighter or even on the new “empower” plugs available on some airplane seats. At $119 it’s cheaper than a spare battery and easier than toting around separate car/plane AC/DC adapters. Interchangeable tips make it compatible with all notebook/laptop computers. If someone on you gift list travels by air or car with a computer, this is a must-have accessory. Get it from Kensington (fig. 15)

Numeric Keypad
Figure 16 Laptop keyboards don’t have a separate numeric keypad, which makes it harder to work on spreadsheets and perform other number-intensive tasks. For only $24.95 you can get a keypad that plugs into the USB port of any computer and works instantly – no software or driver installation required. Get it from Belkin or at Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Office Depot or Office Max. (fig. 16)

Portable Ethernet cord
Figure 17 I stayed at a hotel last summer that had a free Ethernet connection in the room. I had the laptop, but not the cord. For $19.95 you can get a cool 2-foot-long retractable one from Kensington. Don’t forget the modem cord, too: $9.95 from the same place. Or get either one from local stores. This is a MUST for the mobile traveler! (fig. 17)

Laptop legs
Figure 18 I find it awkward to use my laptop at a desk – the keyboard is too high and my wrists quickly fatigue. I’ve looked into laptop stands before, but they are expensive (starting at about $75) and big – certainly not portable and, in many cases, bigger than the laptop itself. When I found this one I immediately ordered it, on sale from ergoube for only $19.95 + shipping. It weighs 2 oz. and fits into my laptop case. It attaches permanently to the computer and the legs swing down when you need them. Rubber legs keep it from skidding. Not only does it place the laptop keys and a more ergonomically correct angle, but by lifting the computer off the desktop it prevents overheating and helps preserve batter life. What a deal! (fig. 18)

Laptop Desktop USB
Figure 19 More and more people — especially college students — are using a laptop as their primary computer, but they can be awkward to use for long periods on the desktop. Kensington’s solution is this clever gizmo which positions the laptop screen at a desktop angle and includes four USB ports so that all of your desktop peripherals can be left plugged in when you grab the laptop for a road trip. You’ll need a keyboard and mouse (not included) to make the system work the way it’s supposed to work but at $79 it’s cheaper and more convenient than buying a separate desktop computer. (fig. 19)

Computer-to-TV hookup
Figure 20 I do a lot of PowerPoint presentations and don’t have my own projector. This is a compromise: the AVerMedia QuickPlay is a cabling system that can connect your computer to a television so that you can project onto a bigger screen. It’s plug-and-play from the USB port in a PC or MAC, doesn’t require software and has three levels of flicker control. It could be an especially welcome gift for someone whose only DVD player is in their computer. Get it for $80 (about one-tenth the price of the cheapest projector) from AVerMedia. (fig. 20)

Travel Speakers
Figure 21 Everything electronic seems to be personal, from personal computers, personal cell phones to personal music systems. But what if you want to share? Several companies make travel speakers, especially designed for portable devices from your laptop to your MP3 player: anything with a standard line out or headphone jack. This Gen2 SI-5 from Sonic Impact Technologies is smaller than it looks: each speaker is 5"x6"x .75" and they snap and fold together in a neat package. It runs off of 4 AA batteries or forget the batteries and plug it into a USB port with the included cable. If you are looking at compact speakers, look for ones that have power, battery and/or USB. The un-powered ones sound cheap and tinny. This one's is $40 from Think Geek. (fig. 21)

ON THE MOVE

USB Flash Drive
Figure 22 This is the must-have gift this year. Of course, I said the same thing last year and the year before. . . This mini hard drive plugs into any USB port and stores gobs of data. I call mine my “portable brain” and wear in on the included lanyard around my neck. There’s room for a PowerPoint presentation to take on the road, or use it to copy files from laptop to desktop. I bought a 128 MB from Crucial) for $29.95; 1GB will set you back $180. Everyone is making these now: shop around for the best deal. (fig. 22)

Gear Grip
Figure 23 Some people carry their desktop computers from place to place – to LAN parties, for example, or to the repair shop. This clever harness system bundles everything together so that you can sling it over your shoulder without spewing bits all over the parking lot. Only $33.95 from Jinx. (fig. 23)

Pocket-sized power adapter
Figure 24 I have a little bag of power adapters but on my last trip to the Middle East I forgot to pack the one needed for my laptop. This all-in-one unit provides plug adapters for use in more than 150 countries. Simply slide out one of the built-in plugs and plug in a laptop, cell phone, battery charger, or similar electronic device. And its safety release button and built-in fuse ensure safe operation for most consumer electronic devices. Only $20 from Kensington (fig. 24)

Solar battery charger
Figure 25 A complete solar charger for small electronics. It comes with plugging accessories that will enable you to run over 90% of all small electronics. Use it to charge a cell phone, PDA, handheld computer, digital camera, GPS, FRS radio, or a portable MP3 or mini-disc player. This model is capable of running most small electronics requiring less than 2 watts of power. For electronics requiring more than 2 watts, multiple units can be daisy-chained together for additional power. The iSun® can also be connected to a BattPak™ ($29.95) to charge AA and AAA batteries. Get it for $70 at Battery Mart (fig. 25)

Portable USB hub
Figure 26 I’ve maxed out the USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports on my computers. On a recent trip, I had to unplug the mini-mouse on my laptop to plug in the flash drive then unplug the flash drive to hook up the video camera then unhook the camera to insert the card reader – what a pain! A portable USB hub turns 1 port into 4. Problem solved. I got the model prior to this one for $19.95 at Big Lots; you can get this one for $50 at Belkin or at local computer and office supply stores. Make sure you get one that’s compatible with both USB 1.0 and 2.0! Works on a desktop computer too. (fig. 26)

Car Chip
Figure 27 Shade tree mechanics have been stymied by the computer systems that now control their automobiles. Computer diagnostic tools are now available to you through the car chip. The $139 device, available from , plugs into the On-board Diagnostics slot (OBDII) that is required in all vehicles manufactured since 1996. It collects a bunch of data: distance, speed, idle time, hard accelerations and decelerations and engine diagnostic trouble codes. Using a serial cable, you can download all the information onto your PC and analyze your driving style and your car’s problems. This version logs 75 hours of data; a 300-hour version is available for $20 more. (fig. 27)

PC Enabled GPS-enabled running assistant
Figure 28 This gadget is so cool it almost tempts me into becoming a runner. Almost. It might look like a pedometer but the underlying electronics are a fully functional global positioning system, or GPS. Because it’s electronic rather than mechanical, it provides precise speed, distance, and pace data by bouncing your location off of satellites. It stores data for up to two years and you can retrieve it as graphs. Here’s the kicker: you can hook it up to your PC, download the data and keep comprehensive workout statistics. There is an optional clamp you can get to mount it on a bicycle. Lots of other features, like a virtual running partner and the ability to map a path back to your starting point. Awesome. It’s made by Garmin but you can buy it locally at sporting goods and electronic stores for $161. (fig. 28)

COMFORT AND JOY

Computer Lap Desk
Figure 29 A comfortable work space for your laptop or recline in a chair with your desktop's keyboard in your lap. The tapered pillow provides an excellent angle for working, the wrist rest is ergonomically correct and the padding will protect your lap from heat generated by the computer. Made from durable canvas. Get it for $25 from Organize Everything. (fig. 29)

Wet-dry wipes
Figure 30 When I’m on the road my laptop screen gets gross. I pull out a twin pack of wipes, one wet and one dry, to clean screens and equipment surfaces. Remove dust and dirt with the wet wipe, following with the second wipe to dry and buff the surface. 10 twin packs per box for $4.95 from Kensington or buy them at local computer or office supply stores. Also look for canned air, a keyboard cleaning brush, microfiber cloths and other products that help keep delicate computer equipment squeaky clean. (fig. 30)

Automatic Eyeglass Cleaner
Figure 31 The geeky image is smudged glasses, maybe held together with an adhesive strip or a safety pin. Protect your favorite geek’s eyesight with this automatic cleaner from Sharper Image. For $50 you get the machine, a six month supply of solution and a microfiber cleaning cloth. Four AA batteries not included. This cleans the entire spectacle (including that awkward bit around the noseclip) in about a minute. (fig. 31)

JUST FOR FUN

PDA notebooks
Figure 32 I have a friend who scribbles notes on the palm of the hand and calls it his . . . palm. This takes the concept one step further: a set of four paper spiral notebooks, complete with a stylus-like pencil. They look exactly like a PDA. All the prestige for a fraction of the cost, or a funny prop for your favorite Luddite. Get them from Computer Gear for $19.95. (fig. 32)

Funny computer keys
Figure 33 Novelty computer keys attach with tape right over the real ones on your keyboard. A set of eight: Panic, Any Key, Beer, duh!, $, Oops!, Eject and Smiley face. Get them from Computer Gear for $19.95. (fig. 33)

GeekMan Action Figure
Figure 34 The poseable 6 inch tall bespectacled, pocket-protector-wearing Geekman action figure includes a PDA that attaches magnetically to his waist; Laptop, Coffee Mug and wristwatch complete the ensemble. Only $15.99 from Think Geek (fig. 34)

Computer cookie cutter
Figure 35 This computer cookie cutter (approx. 4.4 x 3.5") is made from strips of copper, formed by hand and soldered together for a permanent old-fashion hold. A laptop computer cutter is also available. Get it for $8.95 from CopperGifts (use the search box to look for “computer.”) (fig. 35)

Computer Bud Vase
Figure 36 Beautify your computer! This bud vase attaches to your computer and monitor and has a special spill-free design. Get it for $16.50 from Zelco. (fig. 36)

Teddy Bear
Figure 37 Ain't he sweet? A 10" tall teddy bear, complete with a black t-shirt and propeller hat. And who said geeks weren't cuddly? Get it from Computer Gear for $24.99. (fig. 37)

Pocket Protector
Figure 38 For a really nice gift, stuff it with leaky pens. Geeks always need Sharpies to write on CDs. Take my word for it. Other versions are available: Team Geek and Nurture your Inner Geek. Only $2.50 from Geekboys. Bulk discounts are available if you want to outfit your entire IT department. (fig. 38)

Caffeinated chewing gum
Figure 39 Geeks are known for stating up until the wee hours surfing the Internet or hacking into the Pentagon. Takes a lot of caffeine, all that staying up at night. If you drink coffee or cola you have to leave the keyboard for potty breaks. The solution? Caffeinated chewing gum, with caffeine, guarna and ginseng. Get three packs of Jolt gum for $5.95 from HackerStickers. Other flavors are available. (fig. 39)

Bill Gates Snow Globe
Figure 40 Bill Gates is playing with his money in this amusing snow globe. It's a do-it-yourself kit containing everything but the water. It costs $19.95 from Joy of Tech but additional scenes - Techno-babes, hubble telescope and a computer angel - are available for only 99 cents each. (fig. 40)

Chez Dork
Figure 41 Want to poke gentle fun as your resident geek? Of course you do. Chez Dork is a card game. The objective: to accumulate more geeky gadgets that your opponents. Hey, this isn't a game - it's LIFE! Get it for $21.95 from Sci-Fi Genre. (fig. 41)

ONE OF A KIND

Technology Stocks
Figure 42 Even if you don’t have a broker you can get one share of Microsoft stock for your favorite techie. $111 will get you the stock, a frame, and a small brass plaque with a personal message on it. Get it from OneShare Other high-tech stocks include Dell, Apple, Oracle, TiVo, Sun, Cisco, HP and Silicon Graphics. Another source of gift stocks is GiveAShare. A framed share of Google for $222! (fig. 42)

Computer technology first day cover
Figure 43 First day covers are specially decorated envelopes that have a postmarked stamp on its first day of issue. This 32 cent stamp was issued in 1996 and features a picture of Charles Babbage. Only $6.47 including shipping from Unicover or look for it in a local stamp shop. First day covers are amazingly cheap and are available for almost every conceivable interest. While I was ordering my technology cover, I got a set of four on women journalists and the 1968 HemisFair cover – all for under $25! (fig. 43)

Signature Font
Figure 44 Know someone who has to sign their name a lot? A signature font might make his or her life easier. A scalable TrueType font for Windows costs $75 from Elfring Fonts and can be delivered in 4-5 business days. (fig. 44)

GET ORGANIZED!

Podzilla
Figure 45 Friends accuse me of being a gadget freak but what they don’t know is that I’m a gadget bag freak, too. RoadWired has a fantastic line of reasonably priced gear bags, including their best selling “podzilla.” Only 8” tall, it contains twenty compartments to store all those little bits and pieces that you need when you take your hi-tech junk on the road. Get it for $70 at RoadWired in lots of color choices. The slight smaller Pod is $50. Also make sure to look at their “cable stable” (a small one for $30 and the biggie for $40), another alternative for toting around your stuff. (fig. 45)

Cable Organizer
Figure 46 This simple identification system for all your wire plug-ins has six brightly colored bendable tags attach to your wires and assorted reusable picture labels affix to them. You can use it to manage your computer, stereo, or video wires. Package includes 6 assorted Clark Cables, plus 12 icon and 4 write-on labels. Only $9.00 from Zelco. (fig. 46)

Adhesive document clips
Figure 47 You do know that it’s a bad thing to have magnets near your computer, don’t you? These document clips use a special adhesive that attach strongly yet can be peeled off without leaving residue and can be used again. Get the set of four, assorted colors or clear, at The Container Store f or $7.95. (fig. 47)

Cord Raceway
Figure 48 Before I installed a wireless network my husband got his Internet access via dialup – a phone cord that snaked all the way around the perimeter of the bedroom. Big time ugly. A solution is a cord raceway. Most are made of PVC, can be painted with latex paint to match your décor and affix to the wall easily with double-stick adhesive. The one pictured is from WireMold A five foot long channel goes for about $8 at a DIY store like Lowes or Home Depot; a 2-pack of elbows for corners is $4. A good online source for this type of product is CableOrganizer. (fig. 48)

Power Circle
Figure 49 The innovative design of SmartSockets® Table Top makes it easy to offer protection without a lot of clutter. It’s designed to eliminate power cord clutter in meetings and conferences but would work fine in a home setting as well. Circular design has plenty of room for up to 6 AC adapters. Premium protection with 1500 joules, 330 clamping voltage and lifetime warranty. Peace of mind with up to $50,000 in connected equipment replacement warranty. 16-foot power cord reaches the center of the room. Get it for $60 from Kensington or at local computer and office supply stores. (fig. 49)

Cell phone connector
Figure 50 I have some friends who change their cell phones as often as they change their underwear. Getting all of those phone numbers programmed into the new phone is an hours-long chore. The Datapilot Universal contains 7 connectors that will hook up hundreds of models of mobile phones to your PC. Now why would you want to do that? Grab phone numbers from your contact manager, such as Outlook or your Palm. Back up your cell phone directory. Download pictures from your camera phone to your PC (and vice-versa.) With the included ring tone software, make and install your own ring tones. Sync your phone’s calendar with Outlook or Outlook Express. You can buy a kit for a specific phone for $40, but for $80 you can get a kit that has all seven phone connectors, covering any contingency. Get it from DataPilot (fig. 50)

Powerstrip Liberator
Figure 51 Now why didn't I think of this? A lot of my stuff - yours, too, I bet - uses bulky transformers and it's a challenging puzzle to fit them all onto the powerstrips. The Power Strip Liberator is just a UL-rated 1-foot-long heavy duty extension cord that turns your under the desk mess into a neat little display. Only $8.95 for a 5-pack from Cyberguys or buy one for $1.79. (fig. 51)

Cable Caddy
Figure 52 The Cable Caddy clamps to the back of your desk with a vise grip or mounting tape and provides a channel to keep all of your cords organized and within easy reach. Only $9.95 in black or clear from Cyberguys. (fig. 52)

NOT JUST FOR KIDS

LEGO Mindstorms Robotic Invention System
Figure 53 Know a kid who has outgrown his LEGOs? Not so fast. The MindStorm kits link LEGOs and PCs to create a whole new experience. The heart of the system is the RCX, a mini-computer that rides along with your LEGO robot and operates the various sensors. It’s programmed using RCX code on your PC. The program is transferred to the robot via infrared. Everything is included (more than 700 pieces!) including the software, a “constroctopedia” and instructions for 9 projects. You can get it for $199 at most toy stores. Read more about the system at MindStorms. (fig. 53)

Snap Circuits
Figure 54 Elenco Electronics has a large product line of kits that can help a budding electrical engineer learn more about electronic circuitry. The Snap Circuit Jr. kit pictured here is only $21.99 is for ages 8 and up and makes 100 projects, from doorbells to alarm clocks. Other versions are available, many suitable for high school age students and adults. Look for them at a big toy store such as Toys R Us or get them from Amazon. (fig. 54)

Digital Microscope
Figure 55 If I were still in elementary school this is the gift I would want. Shoot! I want it now! This is a microscope (10X-200X power) that hooks up to a PC. You can look at anything, take photos or time-lapse images, make movies and even manipulate your images with a paint program. Originally selling for $150, it’s been deeply discounted to $55.49 at BlueDeals. The perfect PC accessory for the budding scientist. (fig. 55)

NEAT STUFF

Battery Upsizer
Figure 56 Why didn’t anyone ever think of this before? Ever have a battery crisis and not have the right size battery at hand? A battery is a battery, and these clever shells can turn an AAA battery into an AA or an AA into a C or a C into a D. They don’t last quite as long but will get you through the crisis. Only $3.95 for the set from Cyberguys (fig. 56)

Skip Doctor
Figure 57 Bummer! A defective CD or DVD. Skip Doctor can repair damaged media by removing dust, fingerprints and scratches. Get the hand cranked version for $25 from Smarthome or spring $50 for the faster motorized model. It will pay for itself in 3-4 repairs. (fig. 57)

QuickLink Pen Elite
Figure 58 I saw this demonstrated at COMDEX a few years ago and was blown away. This is a hand-held text scanner that works just like a highlighter. Run it over a line of text and it captures is in its internal memory – up to 1,000 pages of text! Transfer to it a computer or handheld device using the included USB cable or infrared. A perfect gift for researchers and students of any age. Get it directly from WizCom for $170 or shop around – I’ve seen it on the I nternet for as low as $125. (fig. 58)

Static dissipative service kit
Figure 59 There are people who open up their computers and work on the insides. I am not one of them. But I do know that one of the things you need to worry about is static, which can zap delicate electronics. The kit includes a durable pocketed static work surface, grounding cord, an antistatic wrist strap and handles so you can safely lug stuff around. Get it for $28.84 from Cyberguys. (fig. 59)

Kill A Watt
Figure 60 Connect any appliance into the Kill A Watt and assess its power efficiency. The large LED display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour in the same way that the power companies do and calculates power consumption by the hour, day, week, month or year. Not only does the Kill A Watt monitor power consumption, but it also allows the monitoring of power quality by displaying voltage, line frequency and power factor. Get it for $37.95 from Solar Goods. (fig. 60)


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