Don't Underestimate Your Mom's Tech Needs and Wants
It's Mother's Day 2010. Geek is the new black. And gadgets are the new flowers.
It took you years to figure out that your mom prefers peonies to pansies. And now you have to start over and figure out exactly what species of geek she is.
Of course, it isn't quite as simple as asking a florist for help. Please don't make the mistake of buying her a pink keyboard if she's up to trading technobabble with the squints on the TV show Bones. And don't give her an ethernet switch...well...ever.
If figuring out which gadget will get you cold pizza and which will score a home-cooked meal has you stumped, read on. When it comes to being a geek mom, it takes one to know one--here are my recommendations.
Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column in Family Circle magazine and blogs at GeekGirlfriends.com and InfoWorld.com/GripeLine.
Novophone Headset for Mobile Phones
If Mom exclaims, "I'm such a geek!" when she discovers something 2005 like text messaging, it's best to go retro. Maybe the old-fashioned feel of a '70s-era phone handset will become her gadget comfort food?
The Novophone plugs into the headset jack on a mobile phone and lets her chat old-school style. Benefits include twirling the phone cord around a finger while gossiping and holding the receiver in the crook of the neck to multitask.
Even a supergeek will be amused, though, if she pulls this handset out of an oversize purse in a public place.
More info | $28
HP TouchSmart 300/1020 Desktop PC
Of course, she'll love the hand-drawn card and the flowers you picked from her garden. But if you want her to remember how perfect you are 100 times a day, drop the AMD Athlon-based TouchSmart 300 PC (with a 20-inch high-definition touchscreen and 4GB of RAM) in her kitchen.
Sure, at $849 it costs more than a homemade gift. But she'll turn to its touchscreen goodness and its slick built-in apps to watch her favorite shows on Hulu while stirring a sauce, to update her social networks while brewing coffee, and to get all her recipes organized and fingertip-ready with the sweet recipe app.
And she'll think happy thoughts about you every time she does. Priceless.
Canon PowerShot SX210 IS Digital Camera
If Mom is unhappy with the photos she takes, maybe she just needs the right camera. Wouldn't you be her hero if you fixed that?
With the right tool, every shot--even photos of kids who won't hold still--is enhanced. The PowerShot SX210 has a host of presets for capturing subjects on the move, in low light, and over a wide angle.
And it shoots in 14.1 megapixels, which is large enough for her to find the perfect image in any shot.
The attractive SX210 comes comes in black, purple, pink, or gold, and captures HD video. It's also small enough that she'll always keep it on hand, which is the first step to getting great photos.
More info | $350
LaCie Network Space 2 Storage Device
If she hugs you while squealing, "A terabyte! OMG!"--be proud. The mom in your life is a geek by any definition. Take it from a mom who danced a jig after installing hers: The LaCie Network Space 2 is the beautiful black box of storage that every busy mom wants--if she's geeky enough to know it, of course.
It plugs into a wireless router or computer and makes her music, photos, movies, and files available all around the house. And setting it up won't sap time she doesn't have; the hardest part is locating the on button.
More info | $190
Sonos ZonePlayer S5 Music System
She wants music in the kitchen, bedroom, family room, garden, and bathroom. But who has the time--or money--to wire the house for sound? You do!
Sweep in with a ZoneBridge ($99) and the Sonos ZonePlayer S5 ($399). Just plug the ZoneBridge into the router to make the S5 a portable, wireless music system that she can pick up and move anywhere.
All it needs is power to deliver Napster, satellite radio, the MP3s on her computer, and more--right to where she happens to be standing. Bonus: She can order up a playlist and control the ZonePlayer from anywhere, using an app on the iPhone.
Full review | $500
Neat Desk Scanner
Nagging and motherhood. They go together like achy and breaky--or Miley and Hannah.
But I guarantee that Mom does not enjoy it. Give your neat-freak geek one fewer reason to nag by introducing her to the Neat Desk Scanner. It's a fun way to zip through paper clutter.
To use, just drop a pile of receipts, bills, papers, or business cards into the feeder and push the PDF button. It buzzes through them all and creates digital versions of what was once littering up the counters, storing them as PDFs on her hard drive--or her NAS device, if she's that geeky--where she can easily find them but never has to tidy them up again.
More info | $400
Sony Dash Personal Internet Viewer
Some moms may be content with a bedside alarm clock that simply tells the time. The one you're shopping for needs to know if she received e-mail in the last 12 seconds, what the latest trending topic is on Twitter, the 411 from her favorite bloggers, her teen's Facebook status, and the weather in five different locations. Some tunes from her favorite Internet radio station and easy access to Netflix videos would also be welcome.
With the Sony Dash she can have everything she needs on a Web-connected, 7-inch touchscreen that fits nicely on a bedside table or counter.
PCW coverage | $200
Amethyst Acer Aspire One 532h Netbook
The lady in your life juggles work, marriage, social networks, and household duties while being pulled every which way by her number one priority: her kids. Give her something that lets her keep it all together right from her purse. (Especially if you get her Broadband2Go to accompany it.)
When she sees the beautiful amethyst color of this 10-inch, 2.75-pound, Windows 7-based Acer Aspire One netbook (available at Wal-Mart) with an Intel Atom processor and 160GB hard drive, she'll know instantly that you get what she needs.
Sure, a boring color works just as well. But this is Mother's Day, for crying out loud. Give the woman something pretty.
More info | $300
TomTom Ease GPS
One major parenting irritation is locating the birthday party or networked-Xbox marathon that is currently at the center of your child's social life.
The directions to such events are universally vague, and getting lost doesn't play well in the minivan. The best solution is to go to the gig armed with a GPS device.
TomTom units are my favorite: The directions are excellent, the voices are amusing, and the ease of use is unmatched. The TomTom Ease is the newest, cutest, and simplest model. Dress one in her favorite color (bundled with a skin), and bring peace to your vehicle.
PCW coverage | $130
iFrogs CS40 Headphones
Sometimes the best way to survive the endless demands of a Mother's Day is to create a space to ignore it all for a few minutes.
Tuning out the chaos is easier within the cone of soothing sounds created by the comfy iFrogz CS40 headset. These colorful (black, red, pink, or white) headphones don't completely block out ambient noise--she can still hear if a child starts bawling--but they put a moment of stress-free calm within easy reach.
And they do double duty as a pacifier: Put them on baby (even if your youngest is 14) to soothe the savage breast without hurting her hearing.
More info | $40