Techie Gift Guide

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If you’re like us, you’ve been way too busy in your 24/7/365 job to shop for holiday gifts. You probably don’t even have time to search your favorite e-commerce-enabled site for ideas–you’re too busy looking for the technical information needed to keep those sites running. Good news: The EarthWeb staff is going to help you out by listing some of the coolest gifts for the technical elite that we’ve seen this year. They’re categorized by price so you can quickly sort out what you need and what’s good enough for the boss. And, of course, all these gifts are available online.

Less than $50

OpenDVD T-Shirt
Available from Copyleft

Copyleft’s T-Shirt is more than a garmentit’s a way of life. The front of the shirt has a big No DVD CCA symbol, and the back sports all the source code to css_descramble.c.

In case you don’t have time to work on the OpenDVD project yourself, buying this shirt will still help the forces of freedom: $4 of every purchase is donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Key Chain with Memo Recorder and Light
Available from Brookstone

Isn’t it amazing that as soon as you stumble out of the office, your mind becomes uncluttered and you can actually start solving problems? That’s where this little digital voice recorder comes in handy. You can record up to 20 seconds of notes, which will be saved even if the batteries run out. Twin LED lights mounted in the unit help you read your favorite tech manual in any lighting situation.

Liquid Light Projector
Available at Yahoo

Deadlines have you stressed? All-nighters making you punchy? Need something to center your Chi? Find an empty office or broom closet, or crawl under your desk and flip on the Liquid Light Projector. Its spinning oil wheel will cast mesmerizing organic patterns on the wall and have you humming old Jefferson Airplane tunes in no time. You can even insert your own 35mm slides for a more personal trip.

$50 to $100

CyberTool 41 Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox
Available at Dom’s Outdoor Outfitters

With this 43-tool Swiss Army Knife and a little creativity, you could sustain yourself indefinitely in the most hostile coporate or natural environments. Around the office, we particularly like the hex sockets (4 and 5mm), Torx bits (#8, #10, and #15), and Pozidrive bits (#0 and #1).

For electronics or LAN emergencies, this knife gives you a wire stripper, crimper, and cutter to get the job done. Oh yeah, knife blades and a life time warranty are also included.

Cool-It Personal Fridge
Available at Think Geek

Tired of running to the company fridge and finding that the only thing left is the unsweetened grapefruit juice? Stick the Cool-It under your desk and stock it with a 6-pack of your favorite rocket fuel. There are no loud compressors to distract your train of thoughtthe Cool-It operates on the Peltier effect, so electricity is only needed to run the fan. The fridge is plastic and includes a removable shelf and a car power adapter (AC adapter sold separately). It’s just 10 inches tall x 7 inches wide x 10 inches deep, so you could even put it on top of your desk–but it would probably get raided just like the company fridge.

Razer Boomslang 2000 Mouse
Available at Think Geek

It can’t be all work and no play. That’s why the Razer Boomslang was invented. This tightly packaged set of advanced technologies will give you the edge in your next Tribes tournament.

The Razer uses a focused light beam that bounces off the encoder wheel to deliver operational resolutions from 1,000 to 2,000 DPI (conventional mice top out at 450). An onboard 6 MIPS chip pumps the data through a USB port.

PS/2 versions are also available, although performance suffers accordingly.

$100 to $200

LEGO & Steven Spielberg Moviemaker Set
Available at LEGO

Remember when Fisher Price released a $100 video camera? If you missed an opportunity to buy one, don’t make the same mistake again. The LEGO Steven Spielberg Moviemaker Set is a major step up in technology and a future collectors’ item. The set includes a video camera, LEGO movie set, and editing software.

The digital PC movie camera has a built-in microphone and can capture both full-motion video (30 frames per second) and still shots (yes, you can do stop-motion animation!) with a manual focus that can handle objects from one inch away to infinity. The camera comes with a 15-foot cable that attaches to your computer’s USB port.

The LEGO movie set includes a large assortment of LEGO blocks, several LEGO actors and stuntmen, a momma T-Rex and a baby T-Rex, and lots of little gadgets to help you make your movies look real.

The video editing software is so simple, even an 8-year-old genius can use it. It enables you to create titles, rearrange the order of your scenes, add sound effects, and do just about everything else you would expect. The set works with any PC running Windows 98 Second Edition or Millenium Edition that also has a USB port.

Bushnell 100 x 4.5″ Compact Reflector with 1.25″ Optical Format Voyager Series Telescope
Available at Global Mart

This year has been an extraordinary one for amateur astronomers: great meteor showers, uncommonly good views of Saturn, and more stuff happening in the sky every day.

Stay tuned to developments in your neck of the universe with this compact telescope. It’s easy to carry, simple to set up, and has a 100- by 4.5-inch reflector. A precision rack-and-pinion focuser will sharpen even the gassiest of nebulas. It comes with a shoulder strap and can be mounted to a tripod (not included).

$200 to $500

Philips Pronto Intelligent Remote Control
Available at Crazy Eddie

For an over-the-top, fully programmable, infinitely customizable, expandable, backlit, remote control with docking station, check out the Pronto. If there’s anything else you want in a remote, then you should relax a littleyou’re too picky.

Handspring Visor Platinum
$299 (no shipping charge)
Available at Handspring

This mighty successor to the Palm Pilot has all the right specs: 8 MB of RAM, a backlit screen, IR, an expansion slot, a USB cradle, and is only $299. Better than that, it’s twice as fast as the Visor Deluxe, comes with a sleek new shiny look, and lets you plug in an ever-growing list of cool gadgets.

Say no more!

Night Owl Cyclops Pro
Available at

This monocular night vision scope is so good, it’ll give you an unfair advantage over bad guys. If your company is plagued by security leaks, arm a couple of your IT staff with the Cyclops. Tell them to go out in the alley behind your HQ, drop a few spicy server logs on the ground near the garbage, and then take up strategic recon posts. The dumpster divers won’t stand a chance.

RCA 1100 eBook (U.S. only)
Available at B&

Now you can reclaim all those wasted moments spent riding elevators and waiting for people who never make it to meetings on time. Just flick a switch and you have everything from the morning news to the latest Grisham novel at your fingertips.

The new eBooks have clearer backlit screens, better software, built-in modems, and stretch more mileage out of their batteries. And at only 18 ounces, it’s a heck of a lot lighter than that PC you’ve been lugging around.

If you really want to impress someone, purchase The Year’s Best Science Fiction: 16th Annual Collection (from St. Martin’s Press) in e-book format and load it up. It’s only an extra $14.36 at B&

$299 for the Sony SVR 2000 (after $100 mfg. rebate)
Available at Electronics

We know–it’s a year old, and that little cartoon Tivo character is really annoying; but if you spend any time watching cable TV (and really, who doesn’t?), TiVo is the gadget to get. The Sony machine has 30 hours of recording time. You’ve gotta like it just for the Joe Namath commercials they’re advertising it with this season.

The service is $9.95/month, so if you want to be extra nice, you can pop over to and sign the lucky person up for their first month (or give them a lifetime subscription for another $199).

Creative Labs MP3 Jukebox (known as D.A.P Jukebox in Europe)
Available at ThinkGeek

Anyone remember the EO Personal Communicator? It was the first handheld device to use the Kittyhawka 20M hard drive the size of a quarter. Those little hard drives are coming back big time, and now they’ll store 6 GB worth of your favorite MP3s and WAVs. If you want that much music to fit in the palm of your hand, then the MP3 Jukebox is for you.

The Jukebox is the size of a portable CD player and weighs just 14 ounces. It has EAX technology and support for FourPointSurround sound to guarantee a superior audio experience. A USB port allows you to exchange files with your PC and can be used to upgrade the Jukebox itself.

2.4 GHz Color Video Surveillance System
Available from The Sharper Image

This wireless surveillance system includes a camera that runs on four AA batteries and transmits color and sound to the base unit pictured here (AC adapter included). A/V output jacks let you record it all on your VCR. And because the system runs at 2.4 GHz, it won’t interfere with all that Bluetooth stuff you’re thinking about buying.

Blackberry RIM 957 Wireless Handheld (U.S. and Canada only)
Available at Blackberry

The Blackberry is the finest wireless e-mail device available today. Powered by an Intel 386 and 5 MB of flash memory, it is definitely faster than your average Palm Pilot (although the Blackberry’s organizer software isn’t nearly as good). The keyboard is mighty small, but useable. It runs on an internal lithium battery and one AA battery. It’s also small enough and light enough to fit in your pocket.

A monthly wireless subscription fee costs extra.

$1,000 to $5,000

Available from Sony

And you thought Blade Runner was science fiction! This robotic pet dog can be trained to react to your voice or play ball with you, and it will develop a personality depending on the type of interactions you have with it.

If you don’t want AIBO to act autonomously, you can buy the AIBO wireless LAN card and programming kit to take direct control of its actions. But Sony goes out of its way to hide technical info about this pet, so we’re not going to spoil the fun, either. It’s best to see AIBO in action at a Sony Style or Sharper Image store near you.

ThinkPad X
Prices start at $1,999
Available from IBM

Three words: Titanium composite cover. Ordinarily that’s the only thing needed to get our “geekdar” going. But the ThinkPad X Series offers a lot more attention-getting features.

First, it’s really light, with a travel weight that starts at 3.1 lb. Second, it’s really slim, only about 1 inch thick. Third, it’s got great battery life, nearly 4 hours. And new mobile processors are sure to up this notebook’s power savings.

Need we say more?

Sony Vaio-GT1
Available from Dynamism

There’s no arguing that this is an odd looking piece of machinery, but the GT1 is a hybrid computer and digital video camera guaranteed to make even the most technically gifted of your friends happy. This system captures photos as well as full video with sound. The camera is a 680,000-pixel CCD variable aperture with zoom. The screen rotates and swivels so that it can be positioned behind the camera, giving the user a large, clear view of the images being captured.

This system is also a notebook computer that uses the Transmeta 600mhz Crusoe chip for accelerated performance and battery life of up to 17 hours. Also included is a 20 GB hard drive and 128 MB RAM. The GT1 also has Firewire, USB, mini-VGA, and NTSC ports, as well as a memory stick. And at 2.42 pounds, it’s pretty easy to carry.

Infinity and Beyond

2000 Ferrari 550 Maranello
$239,000 (luxury tax paid)
Available from Continental AutoSports of Hinsdale Illinois

Having survived the NASDAQ this year, why not treat yourself to a new car? The 2001s are not available yet, but that’s OK. This silver 550 Maranello with red interior has only 3,500 gentle miles on it. And you get a lot for your money, including Daytona seats, a 250 GT Lusso rear deck, red calipers, tools, a car cover, and (of course) the user’s manual.

We like this Ferrari for its slippery aerodynamics (minimal drag Cd 0.33), achieved only through 4,800 hours of wind tunnel tests. Then there’s the speed. The Maranello broke records for the fastest production car by hitting a top speed of 199 mph and jumping from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds (1 mile time is 30.9 seconds).

It also just looks really cool.

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