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Saturday, December 06, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Getting Started / Linda Knapp
Computer tools, toys round out wish list


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Welcome to my third annual Holiday Shopping Spree — a wish list of technology tools and toys I would consider buying for others or myself.

I offer these ideas while you may be wondering what gifts to give or get. Many I've covered in greater detail, or will, so have included those column dates.

Gifts up to $50

Useful items. A USB mini-flash memory drive is lighter than a jackknife and extremely handy for transferring files between computers, even PCs and Macs (Getting Started, Oct. 4).

Also useful is a flash memory card (256MB or 512MB) for camera or portable music player. For the computer, extra RAM memory modules will increase its speed and ability to handle multimedia files.

For PC users, TechSmith SnagIt software makes it easy to select and grab screen shots, annotate them, and send or print them.

Books. For kids, check out the Usborne.com book catalog (Oct. 11). For adults, there are plenty of books that teach computer skills (Aug. 9), and don't forget to give books that have nothing to do with computers.

Games. For help choosing kids' computer games, go to SuperKids.com or EdutainingKids.com for reviews, and to SurplusCDRom.com for low prices.

For kids of all ages who want games for their computers and game consoles, look for reviews at Videogamereviews.vg, Videogamecritic.net, and gamesdomain.com, among others. Be sure to give games that are age-appropriate.

Photo stuff. For PC users on your list with expanding digital photo collections, consider Adobe Photoshop Album 2 or Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9 to organize and share those photos.

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Another idea is to give a published hard-cover photo album of your photos from MyPublisher.com. I ordered three and they look great. Mac owners can order similar books through iPhoto.

Music/movies. For a teenage music lover, set up an allowance for downloading songs from the Apple iTunes music store, or give a subscription to RealNetworks Rhapsody or other service.

In addition, put CDs under the tree so there will be plenty of new music as the holiday unfolds. Movies on DVD are another welcome gift.

Resources. How about a multimedia encyclopedia on DVD? Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia is excellent for PC owners and the Britannica DVD runs on both PC and Mac computers (column coming).

For someone on your list who doesn't know how to touch type, give a software tutorial such as The Learning Company Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (June 7).

Gifts up to $500

Portable music player. If the recipient listens to music for long periods while traveling or studying, for example, the Apple iPod may be the right choice. If the portable player is to accompany heavy exercise, a smaller and lighter player might be right, such as the Rio Chiba.

Digital camera. Again, how the recipient would use the gift matters. If he or she is likely to do a lot of photo editing and printing, a high-resolution 4 to 5 megapixel camera would be a good choice. If, however, the recipient would typically print photos no larger than 4x6-inches, a 3-megapixel camera is fine (May 31, Nov. 22).

Camera cellphone. Even if cellphone photos are a little fuzzy, it's fun to take spontaneous snapshots and save them on the handset or send them to others. A camera cellphone can also become a vital tool for documenting an auto accident or other event (Oct. 25).

• Movie rentals. If someone on your list loves movies, give a year of DVD rentals from Netflix.com (July 19).

Wireless desktop. Liberating the desktop from keyboard and mouse cables would be a welcome gift for PC and Mac users (Nov. 8).

Blog. For anyone who likes to share ideas and opinions about favorite topics, consider giving InkNoise.com ($6.70 per month). This service helps the user create a Web site with text, photos, and video, and permits visitors to submit comments and initiate dialog about selected topics.

Gifts more than $500

Desktop or laptop computer. Getting a new computer is a major event. It involves a choice the recipient will have to live with for quite a while. Be sure you fully understand what the computer will be used for, and choose accordingly. In fact, for this gift, I'd suggest including the recipient in the selection process.

Laptops have become viable replacements for the bulkier desktop models, and having portability might be the right way to go. However, you can generally get more computer power and flexibility for less money with a desktop (Oct. 18).

Digital camcorder. Getting a camcorder is also pretty exciting, especially if it's the first. A decent camcorder can be bought for less than $1,000, but be sure to research and read reviews before choosing which brand and model to buy (Nov. 29).

To see all previous columns, look for the "Getting Started archive" link on the column's Web page: www.seattletimes.com/gettingstarted. Write Linda Knapp at lknapp@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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