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Gifts and Gadgets for the Geek Minded
Pages: 1, 2

Griffin PowerWave USB Audio Interface and Desktop Amplifier
by Griffin Technologies
Works with: computers with USB ports
Price: $99

Griffin PowerWave.
The Griffin PowerWave USB Audio Interface and Desktop Amplifier

The Griffin PowerWave lets you record any mic or line input into your computer; it also works as an amplifier that lets you attach home stereo speakers to your computer or MP3 player. Like all Griffin accessories I've used, it's attractive and thoughtfully designed.

I was initially interested the Griffin PowerWave as a way of getting music from LPs into iTunes. A free application, "Final Vinyl", lets you do just that. But be aware that you'll need the turntable to be connected to a regular stereo receiver/amp. From the Griffin web site, "Turntables require pre-amplification and a special equalization curve (called the RIAA curve). You need the receiver/amp that you would ordinarily use with your turntable." I've read elsewhere that some users have had success connecting the turntable directly to the PowerWave. I had mixed results with the recommended setup; though I was able to record from LP to my iBook successfully, the sound quality provided by the turntable I happened to have wasn't very good. I don't believe this was a fault of the PowerWave by any means (its specs are impressive for the price), but it significantly reduced my interest in doing these kinds of conversions in general. Still, if I were determined to get those Breaking Circus or 13 Engines albums into iTunes, this is how I'd do it.

Musicians and home movie makers can find all sorts of uses for this device, and this may be where the PowerWave excels. And if the person on your list has an archive of old media that they'd love to burn to CD or carry on their iPod, this might just be the perfect gift.

On-The-Go Portable Firewire Hard Drive Case Kit
by Other World Computing
Works with: 2.5" IDE Hard Drives; Macs or PCs with FireWire Support.
Price: $79.99

Firewire Hard Drive Case.
The see-thru case is only part of the appeal of this nifty hard drive case kit.

When our SysAdmin upgraded the hard drive in his PowerBook, everyone in the office was impressed by the gadget he found that makes his old hard drive even more useful. This portable firewire kit from OWC Mercury breathes new life into your old drive by turning it into a portable external storage device.

The cool clear acrylic shell accepts 2.5" IDE hard drives. You'll need to attach your drive to the OWC circuit board, insert this assembly into the case, and attach an end cap. A power selector lets you set the unit to use bus power or the included AC adapter. The kit also includes a leather carrying case and firewire cable.

Whether it's a gift for yourself or a friend, this is perfect for the person who's recently upgraded their laptop drive.

Firewire dino.
The Firewire Dino, by Charismac

Firewire Dino
by Charismac Engineering, Inc.
Works with: Firewire-capabable computer
Price: $74.95

As soon as I heard about the Firewire Dino, I knew we'd want to include it in this year's review. Sadly, its popularity meant that it was out of stock and unavailable for tryouts before our publish date.

But really, when it comes to a hub, what's to test? We hear that the Firewire Dino poseable hub works well, with only a minimal slow-down when synching an iPod thru the hub versus directly. When connected to your computer, dino's eyes glow red and his mouth glows blue (or you can use the external power adapter if you want to avoid battery drain).

The manufacturers web site insists, "Charismac claims no responsibility for broken personal or business related property should Firewire Dino go on a rampage."

Disc Repair Pro Motorized repair and cleaning device
by Charismac Engineering, Inc.
Works with: Repairs most types of optical media discs including: CD, DVD, CD-R, CD-RW, VCD, Audio CD, PS2 and Xbox discs.
Price: $34.95

Disc Repair Pro.
The Disc Repair Pro kit.

Although they couldn't send a Firewire Dino, the folks at Charismac were kind enough to suggest their Disc Repair Pro system as another gift option.

Disc Repair Pro includes everything needed to do minor repairs and cleaning, as well as a more serious buffing option for badly damaged discs. I didn't have a damaged disc to use for a test, but I checked this unit out anyway and found it to contain a generous supply of cleaning and repair products in a very usable system.

Everyone knows someone who leaves their disks strewn about, sans cases. This might be the perfect gift for them!

EFF Sticker.
One of the stickers available from EFF.

Donation to EFF
by Electronic Frontier Foundation
Works with: Freedom-loving friends
Price: As much as you like

For the person who has everything (or the person who doesn't want everything), how about a little freedom?

Make a donation to the EFF and tell your friend it's been done in their honor. You can even buy some swag to go with your announcement at the EFF store.

A few more ideas

Unfortunately, I couldn't get my mitts on everything I would have liked to try. Nonetheless, it seems like they might also make nice gifts:

Other Gifts-for-Geeks Lists and Resources

While compiling this year's list, we noticed some other great review lists. Each has it's own flavor, and many go far beyond the "less-than-$100" requirement in our own list. If you're still having trouble filling out your wish list, one of these might help:

  • Top Sci/Tech Gifts 2003 from

  • A Little Digital Something for Everyone--a gift guide from the New York Times (free registration required).

  • Cool Tools, from Kevin Kelly. Not a gift guide per se, but a site worth visiting regularly for great recommendations. Some wonderful things here for geeks and non-geeks alike.

  • Gizmodo, "the Gadgets Weblog", will keep you up-to-date on all the latest tech toys.

Finally, if you're looking for a special gift for that Mac fanatic in your life, you might want to take a look at The Missing Bite. This site features all sorts of Apple collectibles, from clothing and trade show give-aways to the classic "Think Different" posters.

O'Reilly Goodies

Related Reading

Digital Photography Pocket Guide
By Derrick Story

Of course we hope that you and your favorite geek are O'Reilly fans already, but this year there are a number of items that can also make great gifts, so we wanted to list them briefly here.

Happy Holidays and good gadgets to all!

Terrie Miller is an amateur naturalist, citizen scientist, permaculturist and writer from Northern Calfornia. Her personal weblog is

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