TechPublishing Now MS Certified

TechPublishing Now MS Certified
Professor Robert McMillen, MBA Microsoft Certified Trainer and Solutions Expert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Black Friday Tech Gifts

Black Friday Tech Gifts

By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
Black Friday is almost here and it’s time to think about what to get the geek in your family. There are lots of good new toys to pick from, as well as some upgraded standbys.
In the new category, the netbooks are all the rage.  They have no DVD or CD drive, but they are lightweight and great for class and traveling. They are also cheaper than a laptop. Don’t plan on playing high end games, however. It just doesn’t have the horsepower.
An upgraded tech toy would be either the Nintendo DSi or Sony PSP GO. I wrote a review on each of these about a month ago. I recommend the DSi for the 12 and under crowd and the PSP GO for any age over that because of its abilities to play movies and more mature games.
If you want to go with a laptop, you have many to choose from, but rather than recommend a particular brand I will let you know what most people are looking for when it comes to features. Make sure it has a built in web camera so you can chat with your favorite geek while away from the family. Get at least 4 GBs of RAM, and a minimum 120 GB hard drive, although much larger ones are now appearing. Get a built in 802.11 wireless card that supports G and N. Otherwise, you’ll have to upgrade the card by next year since N is finally catching on. If you go with Windows make sure you get the Windows 7 Home Premium for home use, and Windows Professional or Ultimate for business.
If speed is the most important thing in your geek’s laptop desires, then upgrade the hard drive to a flash based drive. They don’t hold as much data as a traditional drive, but they’re at least twice as fast.
For Console gamers, all three of the big names have dropped their prices by around $50-$100. Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii are all cheaper this year with lots more games to choose from. Expect another major upgrade by next Christmas. This may cause it to be outdated sooner than you expected.
USB flash drives are very inexpensive now, but the kind a geek wants has a built in bootable operating system and encryption software to protect the files in case it gets lost or stolen. The built in OS allows you to boot a computer off the flash drive in case the regular hard drive is broken or is infected with viruses.
A digital video recorder is on the higher end of expensive geek toys, but will be much appreciated. Besides buying the computer to record your videos, you’ll have to call your cable or satellite company to put in a digital card to be able to record HD and digital signals. This will add around $300 for the two cards you’ll need so you can record two shows at once. You could also buy a Tivo for a little less money, but pay an annual subscription.
How about a cool flat screen TV? The new flat screens are better than ever, and here are the geek must-have features: It has to be able to connect to the internet. Some new models have this built in, and it allows you to connect a computer to it so you can watch TV from websites like Hulu. It also must have many HDMI ports so you can connect all your peripherals in HD like Blu Ray, VCR/DVD combo players, console game units, video cameras, and computers. It should have an S Video connector for older connections, and a VGA connection for non HD computer hookups. Having a card reader so you can plug in your camera’s memory card allows for instant slide shows. We’ve done this at family gatherings in the past and it’s very cool.
I love the new handheld digital video cameras that cost around $200. They have all the advantages of a tape based recorder without the expense, tapes, and weight. Even the new iPod Nano has one built in, and you get an iPod that goes with it. The quality isn’t as great on a large TV, but on a 32” or smaller TV or monitor, it looks great. Some geeks attach them to their hats and broadcast their lives on the web. Unfortunately, most people don’t find the lives of extreme geeks that interesting.
Don’t forget about still cameras. I recommend no less than a 10 MP camera. A DSLR allows you to change lenses like the SLR film based cameras before them. They also don’t have that hesitation problem when you push the button like the cheap cameras do. Sometimes the moment is over by the time you take the picture on point and shoot models. Definitely get the DSLR for enthusiasts and sports photographers. Be sure to get one telephoto and one wide angle zoom lens to cover all the possible shooting scenarios. Many come with video capability, but you need to make sure it has sound with it. Silent movies are boring. DSLR packages have come down to around $600 including both lenses.
There are some unbelievable deals at Best Buy and Wal-Mart on 32” LCD TVs. They may go for as little as $250! For a guest room or other location where a high quality TV is not necessary, this is great, but the quality won’t be as good as their better TV models.
If I have missed any great gifts for geeks that you can think of, please email me to let me know.To buy my latest book “How to be an IT Administrator,” go to
For more great tips, check back here each week and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK and at 10:00 AM on KOL in Seattle, or listen online at
If you would like your technical question answered here, just email Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.

Published Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:27 AM by Katatkoin