/ 30 July 2007

Gifts for geeks

Gift ideas are needed year-round. And gifts for geeks can be particularly tough to find — especially for the giver who might not be up to date on the latest gadgets.

Here’s some help. The gift ideas below — some of them wild and wacky — should be sure-fire hits to just about any tech fan for whom you need to find a quick gift.

Digital photo frames

Almost everyone today — geek or not — has a digital camera. There’s just one problem: most of those digital photos end up never being displayed.

You can help solve that problem by buying one of the many digital photo frames on the market. There’s a simple idea behind these: you load up a bunch of digital photographs on the onboard memory, and the picture frame displays the photos automatically.

Often you can set the time interval between displayed photos to determine how long any given photo is displayed. These frames are perfect for office desks or around the house.

Amazon.com lists no fewer than a dozen different digital picture frames, with prices ranging from $50 (about R360) to more than $100 (R710). They may not be exactly inexpensive, but they’re sure to be used, and that’s more than you can say for a lot of gifts.

USB shaver

You need a shave. You’re in an airport or on a crowded airplane with no source of electricity except for one: the USB port in your notebook. What can you do? Plug in your rechargeable USB electric shaver, of course.

While the idea of a USB electric razor may be in the category of ”wild and crazy” as far as gift ideas go, it might actually be useful to the geeky man or woman on your gift-giving list. USB shavers are available for about $30 (R215) from online venues such as Gizmodo.com. Just do a search for ”USB shaver”.

Portable photo hard disk

We’ve all had the problem: you’re on the road with your digital camera, and you fill up your camera’s memory card. How can you take more pictures? Well, you have to offload those images on to a hard drive.

Many manufacturers have come out with compact, nice-looking portable hard drives that fit in the palm of your hand. With all of the units, you insert your camera’s memory card into a slot to download the pictures for safekeeping until you’re home.

Most of these photo storage units come with capacities ranging from 20 to 120 gigabytes — enough to store many thousands of high-resolution images. Many of the storage devices even have an onboard LCD screen that you can use to view the images you’ve downloaded.

Look for units such as Digital Foci’s Media Buddy, Sony’s HDPS and Nikon’s Coolwalker. A brief trip through an online vendor such as Amazon.com will turn up many other models at prices ranging from $40 (R280) to more than $200 (R1 430).

Travel mouse

A casualty of the notebook computer is the good old computer mouse.

The track pads on notebooks are fine for certain tasks, but some folks just never get used to them, and even those who do could benefit occasionally from the sureness and ease of use that only a more traditional pointing device can offer.

Enter the travel mouse. These smaller-than-normal mice — from such companies as Kensington, Microsoft and Logitech — can be small enough to fit on a keychain but still provide the tactile feedback and ease that a larger mouse offers.

Best of all, most travel mice are wireless, using either a notebook’s built-in Bluetooth to communicate or the more standard radio frequency, made possible by a module that plugs in to a free USB port.

The Microsoft optical notebook mouse is particularly nifty, as the receiver snaps nicely into the bottom of the mouse when not in use — so that it’s difficult to lose an essential part. Expect to pay anywhere from $20 (R140) to $40 (R280) for a travel mouse.

iPod accessories

Apple’s iPod portable multimedia player has grown into a status symbol for some, and even many who don’t have an iPod have settled on one of the competing portable media players.

Almost as big as the market for the players themselves is the market for multimedia player accessories. Accessories can turn these gadgets into truly useful tools — and best of all, many of these accessories make inexpensive gifts that will nevertheless be much appreciated.

Look for iPod armbands, which allow the units to be strapped conveniently to an arm. Many of these will work with just about any MP3 or multimedia player. iPod cases are also much in demand.

There’s also a wide range of power adapters, portable chargers, beefed-up ear buds and more. You’ll find these at just about any computer or electronics store, or at the large online retailers. Search for ”iPod accessories. — Sapa-dpa