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December 18, 2010

Great gift ideas for the geeks, and the non-geeks, in your life

Daily Star

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In case you haven't noticed _ maybe if you're a hermit living in a cave _ it's that time of year again.

Gift-giving time. You know what I mean. Retailers think it runs from October to February, but people like me narrow it down to, at most, a couple weeks before Christmas. Sorry about that, stores.

Some people are easy to think of gifts for. Others, not so much. Geeks many times fall into that second category to the non-geeky crowd.

Since I am considered to be more or less of the geek persuasion, maybe I can help. It's almost getting to be a tradition for me to suggest gift ideas this time of year, so the other day I went shopping for a little while to see what I could find in local stores that would qualify as acceptable presents to my kind of people.

Some of these things I have suggested in other years, but _ like socks and underwear _ some items are perennials.

In that category I would include USB flash drives, which have grown in affordable size to be very useful. An eight- or 16-gigabyte drive will let you carry around an awful lot of "stuff" in your pocket or on your key chain, and they can be had for less than a bill that displays a picture of a guy named Grant.

Along the same idea, but a bit splurgier, would be an external USB disk drive. Music and video collectors are always hungry for more storage space.

A not-very-sexy, but many times much appreciated, gift will be the proper ink cartridges for an ink jet printer. These little babies are not cheap, so people hate to buy them, but certainly appreciate getting them. A pack of photo printer paper is a nice accompaniment.

Of course if your giftee doesn't have a color printer, that could be an idea, too. Today's printers will do a very good job of printing photos, and there are even small printers that specialize in those smaller-size pictures that grandparents like so much. Decent ink jet printers are pretty cheap, as the printer companies want you have one (so they can sell you the costly cartridges later on).

Smart phones are becoming extremely common now, and many will function like a GPS to help you find your way as you drive in unfamiliar territory.

But many phones' GPS function dies out when there is no cell signal (like quite a bit of the territory around here). A dedicated GPS device works all the time, and you won't have to give up an awful lot of money for one anymore.

For the geeky guy with a lot of mobile devices, and only one 12-volt power outlet in the car, they make adapters which will plug in and provide two sockets, one for a GPS and one for a cell phone charger.

If the recipient has a cell phone, but no car charger for it, guess what? Santa can provide one of those, too.

Just make sure it is the right kind for the particular phone, because the "universal charger" idea hasn't kicked in yet in the U.S.

If you're thinking along the lines of a more generous present, beautiful LCD computer monitors are now pretty affordable. Someone with an old CRT-style monitor will really appreciate one.

Or, if you want to go bigger yet, this is the year for big-screen LCD TVs. The high-definition display is quite awesome, if you've never seen it, and prices have come down a lot. Really decent models can be had in the $500 range now.

Blu-ray is the technology for putting high-definition movies onto optical disks. If you want to watch rented high-def movies, you need a Blu-ray player to connect to your high-def TV set. These are now in the $100-to-$200 range, and go really well with one of those big beautiful TVs that your giftee may already have. Hint, hint.

All of these items are available in the stores right around here. I know, because I intentionally went around looking for them. And local availability is one of the key things for those who _ ahem _ don't plan ahead far enough to allow for online ordering or traveling to buy gifts.

Here's hoping that I may have helped some Santa and some geek. And, really, I wish all of you the happiest of holidays.

Bruce Endries is former systems manager at The Daily Star. He can be reached by e-mail at His columns can be found at