The ultra-last-minute Mac gift guide

Look, anyone can wait until the weekend before Christmas to do their holiday shopping. Sure, much of the best loot is already gone and, when something worthwhile remains, there’s a far greater likelihood that you’ll have to physically wrest it away from an equally desperate shopper. But it takes someone with a special confidence to fritter away that weekend, leaving their shopping to the day before St. Nick’s arrival.

Fortunately, you have an ally in me—the guy who routinely wakes up the morning of Christmas Eve with that “Tomorrow’s what day!? Huh, well after a cruller and cup of coffee I guess I’d better get cracking” spirit. With that spirit turned up high, here are some of my favorite ultra-last-minute gift suggestions for the discerning Mac user.

iTunes swag

You’ve waited this long to brave the crowds, why bother with them at all when you can give some perfectly lovely gifts without leaving the comfort of your chair? After all, you’re cooked as far as Amazon is concerned—one day delivery is going to do you no good whatsoever (and no, it’s not okay to order today, have the gift arrive on Thursday, and then blame FedEx or UPS—the valiant souls who worked their patoots off during the weeks preceding the holidays deserve better). No, you need loot in the form of pleasing ones and zeros, and the iTunes Store has it in spades.

Just click the iTunes Store entry in iTunes’ Source list, click the Buy iTunes Gifts link in the upper right corner of the Store’s window, and click the Email Gift Certificates entry on the succeeding page. Here you have the opportunity to give iTunes content in amounts from $10 to $200. Once you click the inevitable Buy button the object of your holiday generosity will be alerted to your largesse in a matter of moments.

Alternatively you can print a gift certificate on your home printer. This provides a way for you to slip a little something special (and physical) into the holiday stocking without having to venture more than a couple of steps from the chair planted in front of your Mac.

Finally, you can impose your taste on others by giving a beloved song or album, TV episode or season, or movie to a special someone. The Store allows that as well. On just about every page at the Store you’ll find a Gift This link. Click it with confidence.

Santa’s little helper

A group of Mac-related companies have joined forces to offer their stuff at a discount under the MacSanta moniker. Each December day, through December 24th, a group of downloadable items are offered at a 20-percent discount. Today, you can apply that discount to copies of VMware Fusion, TLA Systems’ DragThing and PCalc, St. Clair Software’s Default Folder X, freeridecoding’s BurnAgain DVD and SmartBackup, Information Graphics’ SecretBook, and Code Sorcery Workshop’s Pukka. To get your discount, purchase from each company’s store and enter the coupon code MACSANTA07. (A host of other items can be had for 10-percent off.)

Once you’ve obtained the goods, burn the items to a CD, include any serial number and registration information in a text file, and use red and green Sharpies to decorate the disc. (No fair keeping a copy for yourself.)

Teach ‘em something

This is the perfect time of year to give the gift of knowledge. And a quick, easy, and affordable way to do just that is to give a PDF guide. Among worthwhile guides I would include anything produced by TidBITS Publishing’s Take Control Ebooks. These guides are written by the best and brightest in the Mac business and cost anywhere from $5 to $15.

Our own Mac Publishing offers its own Macworld Superguides in PDF form, covering subjects including digital photography, iPhone, Mac basics, iPod and iTunes, and Apple TV. Starting at $13, these guides are written by Macworld editors and contributors and are as beautiful as they are helpful.

At the risk of plugging my own work, Peachpit Press, the publisher of my own iPhone Pocket Guide and iPod and iTunes Pocket Guide, offers many of its books as downloadable encyrpted PDF files.

Preserve memories

If you’re the one responsible for blinding the assembled with flash picture after flash picture or hovering over events’ activities with a camcorder, share the day by nipping off to your Mac, creating a collection of the day’s best work, and posting it to an iWeb page or iPhoto gallery. At the time your friends and family may have hated you for shoving a camera in their mug every seventh second, but they’ll appreciate your efforts when, in the future, they want to relive these special memories.

Give of yourself (and your stuff)

So Santa laid a new iMac on you a little early this year and your old Mac is looking just the tiniest bit forlorn in the corner of your home office. Sure, you could eventually list it on eBay or Craigslist, but, in the spirit of the season, why not just give it away? It’s easily done.

Think long and hard about the people you’ll be seeing today and tomorrow. Which of them could benefit from a computer capable of surfing the web, sending and receiving email, and, perhaps most important, supporting a few educational games for the kids? Once you’ve settled on a target, skedaddle home, clean up that Mac (reformat the hard drive, install a fresh copy of the Mac OS on it, install any software on it that you’ll also give away—again, no fair keeping a copy for yourself—and shake the crumbs out of the keyboard). If you can find the original packing materials, all the better.

To make this a gift really worth receiving, you should also be willing to support that computer for the next year. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t know a thing or two about the Mac. Give of yourself by helping them get that Mac on the Internet or, for those who will be using their first Mac, offering a few pointers for moving around the Mac OS and its accompanying programs. Leave your email address and phone number for those times when the Mac behaves in unexpected ways.

You may live to regret doing so by the time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, but, for now, you couldn’t give yourself a better gift than the warm feeling that comes from improving the lives of others with a single generous gesture.

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