Let the Holiday Shopping Begin!
'Tis the season to be jolly and to find interesting gifts for your tech-minded friends and family. I set myself a budget of up to $80 per gift (fortunately, only one product here costs that much; most are a lot less) and scoured the Internet to find fun uses for your precious dollars.
I came up with new ways to charge mobile devices, use digital photos, and cool and pamper a hot laptop; I also found gift cards with fun technologies built in, and much more.
First Up: A digital tool that really measures
eTape Digital Measuring Tape
Need a stocking stuffer for a tool lover? I'm a tool hound, and I'm lusting for this battery-powered eTape Digital Measuring Tape ($25). (Note: At posting time, the Web site said you may have a waiting period of one to three weeks, until the device is back in stock.)
After you take your measurements, you just push a button on the device and it will "memorize" and display the figure on its easy-to-read display. That makes it so easy to grab the pencil and write it down!
The Digital Measuring Tape turns on automatically when the tape is extended, and off when fully retracted back into the case. It can measure up to 16 feet, and will display the results in five different formats.
This is one gift that really measures up!
Next: An aid to easy airport security
Belkin Flythru Laptop Case
If you're looking for a gift for a techie who travels a lot, the Belkin Flythru Laptop Case ($60) may be just the ticket. Nothing is more irritating than pulling a notebook out of its case when going through airport security--while whipping off your belt and juggling your shoes.
This case would spare you at least part of the TSA shuffle. The bag isolates your laptop on one side and all of its accessories on the other. The notebook side has a clear window, so when you unzip the case and put it flat on the checkpoint belt, the TSA agents can easily see your PC. There's no need to remove it from the case. The Flythru also is built with a minimum of metal hardware and zippers to be more security friendly, and it fits most standard and wide-screen laptops up to 15.4 inches wide.
(If you're looking for what's literally a stocking stuffer, the Flythru is a little large for that purpose, but I couldn't resist its practicality.)
Next: Two for the price of one
i.Sound Twin Charging Dock
So, you're lucky enough to be a dual Apple iPhone family. Or one of you scored an iPhone, and the other has stayed with their iPod. Both still need to be charged regularly, right?
That's where this little gizmo could come in handy--the i.Sound Twin Charging Dock. Just park your two sets of Apple gear into this docking station when they need charging and grab them on the go when you leave the house. Beats separate chargers and their cords draped all over the bedroom floor, doesn't it?
The $50 dock includes brackets for current iPhone and iPod models to make sure they are securely supported, and the charger plugs into any wall outlet.
Next: A cool laptop accessory
BlueLounge Cool Feet
Here's a cool solution to a hot laptop: Cool Feet from BlueLounge.
The four nodes attach directly to smooth-bottomed notebooks via suction cups; for laptops with contoured bottoms you would use the included small, very thin adhesive plates to which the suction-cup feet attach.
The two front feet are shorter than the back two, so the setup allows air to circulate and the heat from your laptop to dissipate. A possible bonus is that you also get a slight ergonomic tilt to the notebook when using the feet.
These $13 removable supports--and a pouch for carrying them, also included--could be a great stocking stuffer for any laptop user.
Next: Personalize your travel
Denver Bag Tag
You've shot lots of great digital pictures, but what do you do with them?
You've almost filled your PC's hard drive, you might have shuffled others off to a digital picture frame or two, and your Flickr site is about to burst.
Here's a nice use for a good digital photo. Have the folks at Kimbra Studios make you a one-of-a-kind luggage tag for your suitcase or briefcase (sorry, but the great bag in this photo would blow the budget).
As shown above, an obvious use would be a child's face; or perhaps one made from a memory of a favorite vacation or a good close-up of a family pet. Grandparents could get grandchildren on the tag, and vice versa. The possibilities are endless.
After all, you have hundreds of digital photos, don't you?
The Denver Bag Tags, $28 each, are waterproof and scratch-resistant, and tie to the luggage with a sturdy ribbon. They're also easy to order--you just upload your digital image to the Kimbra Web site, which also sells many other items that can be personalized with photos.
Next: Get a real charge out of this gadget
I already own one of these and can't recommend it highly enough as a holiday present for the overgadgeted on your gift list.
The Callpod Chargepod is a well-designed wheel of charging power that can handle up to six rechargeable devices at once. And you know you have at least that many. For instance, my household of only two people contains two cell phones, two music players, two Bluetooth headsets, and two digital cameras.
The Callpod greatly simplifies your electronic life by cutting down the number of charger cords for your myriad collection of battery-powered electronics to only one. And it makes charging all these gizmos while traveling a real breeze.
The base unit costs $40, and the only downside is that you do have to buy the right tips for each of your devices, at $10 per tip. Luckily, Callpod has a Web page that makes it easy to sort out what to order.
You may thank me later.
Next: A fancy fitness gadget
Itami FiTrainer Headset
This could be a good addition to a fitness fan's stocking. The Itami FiTrainer headset ($80) incorporates a heart sensor, and may be used with customized walking, jogging, or running workout routines, or with music from your own digital music player.
The company says the headset is designed to "respond to your heart rate and regulate your exercise regimen to the most efficient level." It reads your heart rate by being clipped to your earlobe (hopefully not painfully.)
The only thing missing here to keep you on track is Richard Simmons.
Next: A gift card that makes music
Best Buy Gift Card
Gift cards are highly useful, since they have that one-size-fits-all convenience to them. But here's a nifty electronic twist on the usual flat plastic.
Best Buy sells gift cards that are available in a wide array of denominations. There's nothing new about that.
But this holiday season, one type of the consumer electronics mecca's gift cards also acts as a little speaker for a digital music player (not included) such as the Apple iPod Touch, the Creative Zen, or others.
The gee-whiz factor on this one is pretty good, and the cards start at just $15 (but you can spend much more).
Next: You ought to be in pictures with this gift card
Target Gift Card
Not to be outdone, Target stores are selling gift cards with another tech twist. Not just cards, they are also 1.2-megapixel digital cameras that come with 40 free prints. (You can put from $50 to $1000 worth of Target shopping on these cards, which never expire).
So now you can purchase the card and have your picture taken by its recipient right after the gift is opened. Or fill it full of photos yourself before you ship the gift off.
Now that's a gift card that goes the extra mile.
Next: A tool to help dodge extra airline fees
Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale
Now that the airlines are trying to recoup their fuel costs by charging us for absolutely everything, you've really got to watch how much your checked luggage weighs, or you could add a lot of extra bucks to the cost of your trip.
Voilà: Enter the Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale.
This little gizmo hooks onto your suitcase. Then, just lift your luggage in the air, put it down, and check the digital readout for how much you're trying to take onto the plane. (It can measure up to 100 pounds, which is probably the maximum one suitcase should carry, no?)
Compare the result to the limits listed on your airline's Web site and remove any overage.
Cost: $22 (on the site), which could pay for itself in one or two uses if you’re a compulsive overpacker.
Next: You've got to get organized
ErgoTech Ergonizer Mini
Most geek desks are a big mess, and if you'd like to try to neaten up your computer user, the $30 ErgoTech Ergonizer Mini might help.
This clever desktop organizer attaches to the side of your PC's monitor and provides a cell phone holder, a key holder, and a photo holder (perhaps of the generous gift giver?)
And it's flexible, attaching to the top, left, or right of the monitor. No left-handed discrimination.
If you haven't found anything here to suit you, check out PC World's many reviews of all sorts of great technology products.