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Mac Holiday Gift Guide

December 1, 2008
By Dave Hecei, dhecei@post-journal.com

Another year has passed and another turkey is all but gone. That must mean that it's time to finish up that holiday shopping. Mac users are gadget hounds, just like Windows users, maybe even more so. But what do you get that Mac user on your gift list?

All computer users need supplies. This could be something as simple as blank CDs and DVDs, or maybe ink and photo paper for their inkjet printer. For blank CDs it's best to stick to the name brands (TDK, Maxell, Fuji, Sony, and Verbatim). There are two types of recordable CDs, the write once CD-R and the re-recordable CD-RW. Unless you know they need the ability to erase and re-record, just stick with CD-R media. There is actually a third type, CD-R for Music, which is a special disc for use in stereo component type recorders. While they can be used in a computer, you'll be paying more compared to standard CD-Rs, so leave these on the shelf.

Unfortunately, blank DVDs come in a multitude of flavors (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL, DVD-R DL - DL stands for Dual-Layer). Standard DVDs hold 4.7 gigabytes, while dual-layer discs hold 8.5 gigabytes. Most new Macs should be able to use any or all of these discs, but to be compatible will all ages of Macs you will want to stick with DVD-R discs (some older Mac's DVD drives cannot read from a +R disc).

Printer ink is something that we always seem to need. One of Murphy's Laws states that you will run out of ink in the middle of printing a special project at Midnight that is due first thing in the morning. To get the proper cartridges you will need to know the exact model of printer. Buying the manufacture brand ink ensures the best quality and consistency, which is important for photo printers. Matching photo paper is also important. For the best results you need to buy the manufacturer's paper, meaning buy Epson paper for Epson printers and HP paper for HP printers. There are some third party papers out there, but unless you're willing to experiment, it's best to stick with the same brand as the printer.

If your favorite Mac owner is still using a corded mouse, why not cut the wire, so to say. A wireless mouse makes a great gift and one that they will probably use every day. Not having that cable coming out of the mouse, which is always getting caught or tangled, is true freedom. While Microsoft may not be on a Mac owner's Christmas card list, they do make some of the best computer mice out there.

There are two types out there to choose from. There is the standard LED optical mouse, like the Model 5000 with five buttons and a tilt-wheel for scrolling up and down plus side-to-side. Something fairly new is the laser mouse. The laser allows for much more accurate tracking of movement on almost any type of surface. Check out the Microsoft Model 6000 Laser mouse.

Moving on, we now go to storage. Storage can take many different forms from something that fits on a keychain to something that attaches to a home network. Small USB ''thumb'' drives (also called Flash Memory) are great for quickly storing files, or for moving them from one computer to another. These are great for taking files from your home computer to your work computer, and vice-versa. The amazing thing about these little wonders is the price, which is at an all-time low right now. Look for something in the 1, 2, 4, or 8 GB size (at these prices don't bother with anything less than 1 GB). A 4 GB USB drive should be about $10-15. PNY, Kingston, Crucial, Sandisk and Corsair make excellent thumb drives.

For a bit more storage you need to look at external hard drives. These can have either 2.5- or 3.5-inch drives inside an external case. Capacity can range from 60 GB to 500 GB for 2.5-inch drives, while 3.5-inch drives can go up in the Terabyte range (1000 gigabytes) or more. Most 2.5-inch drives can get their power directly from the computer, no power cord needed. This makes them a perfect gift for notebook Macs. A 3.5-inch drive must be connected to an AC outlet for power. These hard drives spin much faster and can hold much more data making them best suited for backups or for extra storage for your digital photos, music, and video files. Take a look at drives from LaCie, Buffalo Technology, Iomega, Maxtor, Western Digital and Seagate.

Usually these external hard drives connect to a Mac using either Firewire or USB 2.0. Another type that has become very popular is the NAS drive, which stands for Network Attached Storage. This is an external hard drive that usually has a USB port but also has an Ethernet networking port. You connect this drive to your home network and after running a setup program, or wizard, the drive is now available to everyone on your network.

These new NAS drives usually include media server capabilities built in. This feature lets iTunes see any music on the NAS drive. By using a media server you can have a central depository for all your music that everyone in the house can have access to at any time. Yes you could set up one computer to do this, but then it would have to be on all the time, which uses more electricity compared to a small hard drive.

There are some great subscriptions that you might want to take a look at. Netflix is finally coming to a Mac near you. They are actually working now as a test, but should be official here very soon. For those who don't know what Netflix is, they rent DVDs by mail. Netflix has different service levels including three different unlimited accounts, which will also give you access to over 10,000 videos you can watch immediately on your computer. This ''Instant Queue'' used to be PC-only, but Netflix has released software allowing Intel-based Macs (sorry PowerPC Macs) to watch movies and TV shows online. Of course you will need a high-speed Internet connection to take advantage of online content.

There are too many other gadgets, accessories, software and services to mention here. Happy Holidays and happy gift shopping.

 
 

 

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