In Brett Larson’s last report, he looked at holiday gifts for the kids on your shopping list. But there are a plethora of fine products for the teen and adult computer user in your life as well. From handheld gadgets to must-have software, there’s bound to be something to fit your budget.
If the person on your shopping list is still carrying around their “At-A-Glance” calendar from 1997, perhaps it’s time they move into the world of the digital organizer with the new
Because of its price tag, the Palm IIIe is the perfect entry-level digital assistant — but don’t let the small price worry you. This is still a full-featured palm, with 2MB of RAM — plenty for addresses, notes, appointments, and a large handful of shareware and freeware. Also available is the Palm IIIe special edition, which features a cool looking translucent case — perfect for college kids or anyone obsessed with style.
If you plan on using your Palm with your Mac, you’ll need to invest a few dollars in the MacPac, which has the needed adapters for the HotSync cradle to hook into your ADB equipped Macintosh. USB users need to purchase a
Keyspan PDA Adapter
) rather than the MacPac, to hook into their Mac, and then download the Mac software fore free from the Palm web site. ($170;
If the person on your holiday list already owns a Palm, don’t despair! You can always get him or her a Palm add-on.
goVox Digital Voice Recorder
www.landware.com, 201/261-7944) replaces the cover on your Palm III, IIIe, or IIIx with a recording device that will hold up to 8 minutes of sound. I say, load it with your favorite song and pretend it’s a transistor radio.
Writing with that stylus can get a bit hard during those heavy “entry” moments, so you might want to check out LandWare’s
keyboard ($80, $90 for Palm V;
). No more fussing with graffiti to enter data when you’re on the road! It’s available for the Palm III, IIIe, IIIx, V, and VII.
Burnin’ Love? Get a CD-RW
If you still can’t justify plunking down some cash (or a credit card) for a CD recorder, perhaps a little word/phrase association game is in order:
“Whoops, I just threw away my Documents folder!”
“What! It only holds 100MB?”
“Hey, what happened to my Documents folder?”
Okay, so it got a little repetitive. But a CD recorder is still the perfect solution for storing large files and backing up your data. Of course, you can also make your own audio CDs and CD-ROMs.
There are plenty CD-R drives out there, but only a handful work over USB, and still fewer on FireWire — but boy, the FireWire-based drives are
. Here’s the skinny (speeds for each drive are given in the order of Write/Rewrite/Read):
If back-ups are your primary concern, the
Sony Spressa USB CRX100E/X
www.sony.com/storagebysony, 800/352-7669), is, at this time, the only USB drive supported by Dantz’s
backup software (
). The software that ships with the Spressa lacks the ease of use that some Mac users look for — you may want to buy a copy of Adaptec’s
www.adaptec.com, 408/945-8600) to supplement it. Unfortunately, the Spressa features only 1MB of cache RAM — vital in ensuring that your CD writing won’t be corrupted by a data slowdown.
QPS Que! CD-RW External USB
www.qps-inc.com, 800/559-4777) is the perfect match for owners of blue iMacs — it’s blue, too. It doesn’t currently work with Retrospect, but does come with Toast, and offers 2MB of cache RAM to smooth over data slowdowns.
La Cie External USB
drive (2x/2x/6x $300;
www.lacie.com, 503/844-4500) lacks Retrospect support, and it runs a little slower at recording than the above drives. It has a 1MB cache and comes with Toast.
Reading CDs a bit faster than its USB cousin, the
QPS Que! Fire Drive 24x4x4
www.qps-inc.com, 800/559-4777) has a 2MB buffer and comes with both DirectCD and Toast software packages.
Spressa iLINK 4x4x12 CD-RW
www.sony.com/storagebysony, 800/352-7669) is another fast CD-RW drive. It has 2MB cache and includes Discribe software and Dantz Retrospect Express backup software.
Anyone who saw “American Pie” may have a slightly different idea of what you can do with a Webcam. Granted, showing off your date to a large circle of friends is possible, but it’s not what everyone wants to do when they get a Webcam — at least, I hope it isn’t.
Still, the uses for these handy little devices are endless. With the right software, you can add your mug to e-mail on the fly, make creative little movies you can send to family members to convince them you need more money for school, or watch over your apartment or dorm room while you’re gone.
QuickCam VC USB
www.logitech.com, 800/231-7717) is compact and can capture either still images or full-motion video at 24 frames per second. Perfect for those short, pity-inducing movies.
www.zoomtel.com, 800/808-3120) features a faster video capture rate than the QuickCam (30 frames per second) and higher resolution. It can also take still images at 704 by 576 pixels, and comes with White Pine Software’s CU-SeeMe video conferencing software.
Users of 2400, 3400, or G3 PowerBooks will appreciate iRez’s
www.irez.com, 480/922-0044). This full-motion digital camera connects to your PowerBook via a PC card. Add a wireless modem and you’re good to do Webcasts on the go. Suddenly taking everyone in the dorm on the trip to Mexico isn’t necessary!
If low-quality images from the vantage point of the top of your computer monitor aren’t your thing, perhaps a Digital Camera is just what you need. Prices on digital cameras range anywhere from $399 and up, though you shouldn’t need to pay more than $1000 for something good.
If your primary goal of owning a digital camera is to snap pictures of the kids to send Nan on e-mail, or add a little still life on your web site, consider the
Agfa ePhoto CL30
www.agfa.com, 978/658-5600). It has a reasonably high resolution of 1,152 x 864 pixels, offers a color LCD display, and uses CompactFlash memory cards. It comes with both USB and PC serial cables and a Mac serial adapter.
For the more advanced personal user, or the one who is willing to spend a little more, consider the
Olympus D-400 Zoom
www.olympusamerica.com, 800/347-4027). It comes with Adobe’s PhotoDeluxe, and puts out good photos with little fuss.
For the professional, check out the highly recommended
Nikon Coolpix 950
www.nikonusa.com, 800/526-4566). It does an exceptional job taking pictures, and can focus on just about anything.
Both gadgets and software are now on the Mac platform when it comes to MP3. Here’s the deal:
Available in a sleek looking metallic gray, purple and teal, Diamond Multimedia’s
www.rioport.com, 800/468-5846) is the ideal MP3 player for the active person in your life. It comes with 64 MB of memory (expandable to 96MB), a USB connector, and can play about two hours of music. It also ships with a limited version of Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP encoding software.
Speaking of which,
called Casady & Greene’s
www.soundjam.com, 800/359-4920) “hands down the best MP3 Player for the Mac,” and awarded it four mice. Who are we to argue with ourselves? SoundJam not only creates MP3 files from CD, AIFF, QuickTime and WAV formats, but it also can help you organize your files, control playback with a graphic equalizer, listen to MP3 streams over the internet, and much more.
Available as an electronic download only, Xing Technology’s
) is an MP3 encoder only — so if you buy this, you will need to get a separate MP3 player program, or listen to the resulting MP3 files using Apple’s QuickTime 4.0. In Macworld’s tests, AudioCatalyst created the highest quality MP3s of any Mac encoder, and with small file sizes.
) is an extremely simple MP3 creation utility: simply drag the CD audio files you wish to encode on top of the N2MP3 icon, and off it goes.
Once you have some new MP3 encoding software, you’ll need to find a suitable desktop MP3 player.
is an excellent player as well as an encoder, so if you end up buying that program, you’re ready to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
www.panic.com, 503/296-2185) is a CD/MP3/Internet audio player available as an electronic download. It’s got an extremely attractive, easy-to-use interface.
If you’re looking for a free player, consider Digital Thought’s
). This MP3 player has a straightforward Mac interface, and offers song lists, the ability to save multiple playlists, and shuffle and loop play modes. The best part is that it’s free, and it’s a relatively small file to download.
Pump up the Jams
If you’re looking to beef up the sound on your Mac you may want to invest in a new set of speakers.
For good sound at a good price, consider the
Altec Lansing ACS65I
www.altecmm.com, 800/258-3288). Featuring a subwoofer and two 3-inch satellite speakers that hook up to your computer’s audio out jack, they come in a blueberry case — but are not available in other iMac colors.
PowerCube Speaker System
www.altecmm.com, 800/258-3288) is another three-piece speaker system, but a little less expensive and comes only in platinum-colored plastic.
) is a little more expensive than the Altec speakers, but well worth it. The sound is exceptional, and the style is very cool. The three-piece system features two uniquely designed satellite speakers that will change your expectation of speaker style. They’re worth the price, if you want great-sounding speakers on your computer.
Assistant editor BRETT LARSON covers consumer products for Macworld and writes the weekly