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Gifts and Gadgets for the Geek Minded

by Terrie Miller

The wonderful thing about having technically-minded friends and family is that you get to shop for them. Those are usually the first gifts I check off my list because they are infinitely more fun to research than trying to find something that Mom will actually wear. (If she'd only buy a Mac, then all my problems would be solved!)

Since putting together last year's geek gift guide was so much fun, I decided to do it again. After all, look at how much things have changed since we last compared holiday notes.

Keep in mind, however, that most of last year's gift ideas still make great choices. The Podium Coolpads, iSkin keyboard protectors, and the Ultrapod portable camera tripod are things I've used all year long. In fact, everything from that previous article is still worth considering for your favorite Mac user.

For this year's line up, I decided to relax the price requirements and include products that retail for as much as $100. You'll still find some great gifts for much less than that, but there are some really fun options if your budget is a little higher.

And if those new entries still aren't enough to stir the embers, I'll also point you to some other gift guides on the Web. With any luck, you'll be able shop right through your post-turkey torpor. Let's go!

Keyspan Presentation Remote (w/Laser Pointer)
by Keyspan
Works with: Mac and Windows machines with USB ports
Price: $59.00

Keyspan Presentation Remote.
The Keyspan Presentation Remote.

Here's a stylish gift for the person who makes presentations. The Keyspan Presentation report lets you control your PC from up to 40 feet away via a small USB receiver. The remote makes it easy to flip thru Keynote or PowerPoint slides, but it also works as a remote mouse, allowing you to do demonstrations that move beyond the usual slides. A laser pointer is a thoughtful addition to this remote. When not in use, the remote and receiver tuck nicely into a pouch that's provided.

Setup under Mac OS X (I'm using Panther) couldn't be easier; pop the USB receiver into a port, and I was mousing from a distance immediately. That's really all there is to it.

The remote uses one CR2450 (Lithium 3V) battery; one is included, but you might want to get a spare and tuck it into the travel pouch.

Wifi Detector (WFS-1)
by Smart ID
Works with: Not applicable (stand-alone device)
Price: $28.00

Wifi Detector Device.
The Smart ID Wifi Detector.

I asked pal and Wireless Hacks author Rob Flickenger to do a mini-review of this device. Here's what he had to say:

After being horribly disappointed with early versions of the "Wi-Fi detector" geek toy, I was a bit dubious about trying this one. Boy was I wrong.

This little box is about the size of a small remote control, and is powered by two (supplied!) AAA batteries. Just push the friendly little button, and you've got the Wi-Fi equivalent of a working tricorder. Blinking red LEDs flash merrily as the device detects radio waves at 2.4GHz (where 802.11b and 802.11g networks live), getting brighter and more plentiful as you get closer to a good signal.

On the downside, it gives you no indication as to whether you can actually use the network it detects, and doesn't seem to discriminate between networks and microwave ovens; turn it on in your kitchen while running the microwave to see just how bright those LEDs can get! But despite these minor drawbacks, it certainly works as advertised and even detected a network two floors up. I give it 10 out of 10 for the sheer cool geekiness of the experience (with extra credit for the blinky lights).

3G SportSuit Convertible Case
by Marware, Inc.
Works with: 3G iPods
Price: $39.95

If words like "multi-tool", "versatile", "customizable", or "accessories" catch your eye, you're going to love the SportSuit Convertible iPod case from Marware.

This set takes your iPod from the office to the gym and then into your bag. At its most basic, it's a protective sleeve with belt loops and a handy removable plug/grommet so you can synch your iPod without disrobing it. Adding a cover for more protection and an earphone pouch is simple with built-in velcro tabs. Slide a clip on the back and you're set to go; if you're off to the gym, the armband holds your iPod securely during your workout.

SportSuit Convertible Case Components.   SportSuit Convertible worn with armband.
The 3G SportSuit Convertible Case comes with a sleeve, detachable cover, clip, and arm band.

I really like the versatility of this case, and the fact that it has nice built-in storage for earphones. It took us a while to figure out how to set up the arm band: the diagram in instructions is a bit lacking here.

This is a really complete setup, but if for some reason the SportSuit Convertible doesn't already include everything you need, you can choose from a number of optional accessories from Marware: swivel clips, car holder, bike holder, belt, and lanyard. And the case itself is available in a variety of striking colors.

The SportSuit Convertible case is great for the active iPod owner who wants sturdy protection with a variety of options.

CEO Glove
by Marware, Inc.
Works with: 3G iPods
Price: $27.95

Marware CEO Glove Case.
The CEO Glove by Marware is a trim, sophisticated case.

If you're looking for something with a smaller profile, check out the Marware CEO Glove. This slim case actually does fit like a glove, with a nicely-lined leather shell. A plastic screen protector helps prevent scratches, and the zipper opening hugs the bottom half of the case, so you can synch with a quick unzip; no need to remove the case entirely.

A low-profile clip is included, and like the SportSuit case it features the "Multidapt" interchangeable clip system, so you can use the case with the same variety of mounting accessories.

This is a good-looking case, but it's not fussy and is perfect for the person who likes to slip their iPod into their pocket or clip to their belt and go. It offers good basic protection without the bulk of a more padded case.

iSkin eXo2
by iSkin Inc.
Works with: 3G iPods
Price: $29.95

iSkin eXo2.
The iSkin eXo2 iPod case.

Style mavens will love the brand new iSkin eXo2 case; its modern silicone case is initially available in four colors, with the popular glow-in the dark "GLO" colors to be added soon.

The eXo2 cases include a new detachable brushed stainless steel clip that can be placed in horizontal or vertical orientation (It's easy to change the orientation, but it's not a swivel). Pores in the back of the case help prevent heat problems, and mini "pegs" allow heat to escape even if the unit is on flat surface. Like the other iPod cases I reviewed, the eXo2 allows access to the firewire port without removing the case. Screen protection is provided by a hard plastic window that you insert under the snug-fitting silicon cover. A detachable hand strap is a nice touch.

This case feels great, and its sleek, modern design really complements the the iPod. It's probably not the best choice if you tend to drop things...but if you're looking for a slim form factor with attention-getting looks, this is case for you.

Sportfolio Sleeve
by Marware
Works with: PowerBooks and iBooks
Price: $29.95-$39.95

Sportfolio Sleeve.
Sportfolio Sleeve (inset shows "Barracuda Skin" pattern detail).

If Santa is bringing someone you know a new Apple laptop, you might want to remind him that they'll need a case to go with it. And if they'd like minimal and elegant, you might point Santa towards the Sportfolio Sleeves by Marware.

I tried out the elegant "Barracuda Skin" sleeve for the iBook. The neoprene has a great feel, and the zipper is lined to prevent scratches. The edges have a nice grippy surface, which is a thoughtful touch.

This isn't a carryall by any means. The only thing that fits in this sleeve is your laptop itself. But that's part of the appeal, especially for people who already have a favored bag. The SportSleeve will go right into your existing backpack or briefcase, while still giving your laptop some coverage if you need to take it to lunch or a meeting.

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