Cool Tech Gifts: Inexpensive Webcams for Video Chat

When you're on the road, camping out in a bland hotel room, there's something truly comforting about seeing your spouse, kids, or other loved ones in a live video chat. You can make a meaningful connection, rather than simply having a dialog, as you would on a phone call. Add to this the fact that good-quality Webcams are inexpensive and video chats via Skype, Google's Gmail, and other Internet services are free.

The only question remaining is, which Webcam to give as a gift?

This week, I'm continuing my recommendations for cool holiday gifts under $300 with a look at Webcams. Last week, I reviewed Pure Digital Technologies' $230 MinoHD pocket high-def camcorder. Next week, I'll conclude with ideas for GPS, smart phones, and accessories.

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Cool Tech Gifts: High-Def Pocket Camcorder

It's difficult to get enthusiastic about spending money on gifts this holiday season. But let's look at the bright side: There will be lots of compelling year-end sales, starting with last week's Black Friday and this week's Cyber Monday. And you've got plenty of cool--and affordable--tech toys to choose from.

Over the next three weeks, I'll recommend mobile products that cost $300 or less, and that I feel are good choices for gifts. This week: Pure Digital's Flip MinoHD, a pocket camcorder that shoots high-def video.

The Back Story

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The Mobile Office, Part 2: Brother PocketJet, Pico Projector

Lots of things are shrinking these days, besides attention spans and 401(k) plans. Netbooks, also called mini-notebooks, aren't much bigger than some hardcover books and weigh about 2.5 pounds or less. Some portable printers are roughly the size of a stapler. There's even a portable projector that's as small and light as a cell phone. All told, you can put together a mobile office that weighs about 5 pounds or less and fits in a small bag.

Last week I reviewed the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 netbook. This week, I look at the other components for your mobile office: a portable printer, projector, and scanner. (I haven't included wireless phones, because most people already have one.)

PocketJet 3 Plus

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The Mobile Office, Part 1: Lenovo IdeaPad S10

In this era of increasing miniaturization, the truly mobile office has arrived. It's now possible to travel with a computer and printer that have a combined weight of under 5 pounds, and that fit easily into a briefcase or even a large purse. This week, I review the Lenovo IdeaPad S10. Next week I look at the ultraportable Brother PocketJet 3 Plus printer (formerly known and still sold as the Pentax PocketJet 3 Plus), along with ideas for other micro office equipment.

Lenovo's Netbook

Netbooks, also called mini-notebooks, are ultra-light, compact, affordable laptops. They're specifically designed for e-mail, Web browsing, and light computing tasks. And in this lousy economy, they're a growing segment of the portable computer market.

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Wi-Fi in the Sky

While cruising along at about 31,000 feet on an American Airlines flight in late October, I checked e-mail on my laptop. There, in Gmail's Spam folder, were three new messages offering the usual outrageously annoying, hokey promises. You know the type: Someone from Nigeria was informing me I could claim 7 million dollars in U.S. funds.

Spam in the sky--I should have seen it coming. The bigger news here, though, is that I surfed the Internet all the way from San Francisco to New York. The ride was a bit bumpy at times, but for the most part, the on-board Wi-Fi experience, supplied by Aircell's Gogo service, went smoothly.

The Back Story

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Reducing the Cost of a Laptop, Part 2

"It's not about what you earn," some wise soul has probably said to you. "It's about what you keep." In that spirit of fiscal frugality, let's continue with a topic near and dear to our hearts these days: How to buy a laptop and keep some of your hard-earned money, too. Last week, I offered tips on how to save money on a new laptop's productivity software. This week I'll look at buying refurbished laptops.

New vs. Refurbished

Buying a refurbished laptop can save you several hundred dollars, compared to a similar new model. I've bought refurbished laptops from Dell in the past and was happy with the experience.

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Reducing the Cost of a Laptop, Part 1

Last week I told you about laptops from Acer, Dell and Hewlett-Packard available for $500 to $600, depending upon configuration. But what if none of those notebooks floats your boat?

You can still trim the cost of any laptop you're considering. This week I've got some tips on how to save money on productivity suites such as Microsoft Office, which can add up to $350 to your laptop's price tag.

Next week, I'll have more tips for shaving dollars off your laptop purchase. If you've got a money-saving laptop tip, please share it with me.

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