Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet
Gifts of Technology
By Mike Gould
It is that time of the year again: Santa is readying his sleigh with 8 tiny wireless mice, preparing to surf down the super highway on his way to visit all the computer users not on his naughty list. Getting into the spirit of things, here is a stocking-load of suggestions for holiday shopping. The sharp-brained reader may recall that I did this three years ago, but hey, that's 30 years in Internet time, and everything's newer, better, or cheaper nowadays. Or didn't exist way back then. These are all small items that will fit in a stocking nicely, each under $100.
Memories For You
Flash Drives have followed the general trend in computing: smaller, faster, easier to lose. I now wear my 2G SanDisk CruzerMicro around my neck on a long lanyard, having lost my last one. (If you are one of my clients and have found a little doo-dad that you can't identify sticking out of the back of your computer, please call me.) You can get a 2G jobbie for as cheap as $30 these days; watch the sales at CompUSA and elsewhere.
A relatively new addition to portable memory is the mini mobile hard drive. The LaCie USB Key 4G drive is a bargain at $80, and is intended for those who need to haul around bigger files or more of them. These drives can be had with even larger drives in them, for more money. These are based in tiny hard drives instead of solid state RAM; they are a bit more fragile than the usual USB Flash Drive, but hold more for the money. As with anything else in this business, they will be even cheaper in the future, but for the moment, they are still a pretty good deal, and much appreciated by the computer-savvy.
If this is a gift for a client, consider a Flash Drive with your logo on it. There are a lot of companies out there that do this for not much money. You can also get your logo printed on mice, hubs, and digital picture viewers and frames. The picture viewers are a cool idea; you give them out with a picture of your logo loaded in, and the user can add other pictures (probably of their kids) downloaded from their computers.
If you have a digital camera user on your list, Flash RAM (the digital equivalent of film) is always welcome. Make sure you know the appropriate format their camera uses - usually Compact Flash (CF), Secure Digital (SD) or Sony Stick.
Shuffling With the iPod
Cheaper than ever ($80) and just as cool - the problem is finding someone who doesn't already have one. The iPod Shuffle will hold 240 songs, talks to PCs or Macs, and is incredibly tiny. There are lots of other music players out there that are even smaller and cheaper - but none have the iPod's ease of use. Also consider gift cards from the Apple iTunes store so your recipient can fill 'er up with choice tunage.
If that special client already has an iPod; there are a plethora (a technical term meaning more than a bunch but less than a boatload) of iPod accessories and goodies out there. A Google search on "iPod gifts" finds more than 4 million entries out there, so fire up your browser and go shopping.
Buy For Cell
Chances are your giftee has a cell phone; same deal with the ipods - accessorize. If the phone is Bluetooth compliant (check beforehand), one of those cool Star Trekky over the ear headsets might be just the ticket. These start at around $40. The dean of a certain UM school wears one of these, and it gives her just the right 21st Century look as she walks around seemingly talking to herself. I want one, except my phone is not Bluetooth-enabled. Maybe the next one I buy...
Spare batteries for cell-packing road warriors are also appreciated. Again, check for model number before ordering. Google has six million entries for "cell phone accessories".
The experienced business traveler usually travels with a computer case filled with extra gear, all of which contribute to aching shoulders and elbows at the end of the day. Therefore, anything to you can do to reduce the load is greatly appreciated. One of these items may be a USB hub, used to share the ports on the back of a laptop with a mouse, wireless dongle or somesuch. Targus now makes the Super Mini USB 2.0 4-Port Hub for only $30. Weighing in at only 1 oz, this little guy can replace gear four times heavier.
And to plug into that hub, a miniature mouse for only $11: the Synapsis mini travel optical mouse.
Everybody uses laser pointers these days, but how many use green ones? These can now be had for as little as $60, and are a great gift for the truly geeky. Green lasers are more visible than red ones, because the eye is more sensitive to green light. Also great for entertaining cats.
Let Them Have Light
Finally, for those who like to work in darkened offices to improve the appearance of their computer monitors, how about a keyboard light? I have tried a bunch of these, and the best one I have found is the Contempo Keyboard Light. I believe Jan at this very magazine turned me on to this, and at $30, I recommended it highly. Instead of LEDs, this little lamp uses a cold cathode tube, which provides a smooth, even light that lights up my keyboard perfectly. It can be powered by your keyboard or with a wall outlet. I have two of these, one at home and one in my office.
Mike Gould, is a part-time mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Consulting/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to email@example.com.