- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tick, tock, tick, tock - the clock is winding down, relentlessly bearing down on the “deadline” of Dec. 25. What to do? Herewith, some last-minute suggestions.

I truly like the Flip UltraHD Camcorder: For $199.99 (less at Costco if they have any units left), you get a tiny, very portable 720p HD camcorder that will store 120 minutes of HD video and sound.

I don’t believe much more needs to be said. This year’s price is the same as that for last year’s model, which only handled an hour’s worth of video, if memory serves me correctly. This year, you get twice the capacity, direct output to a flat-screen TV via a mini-HDMI port (and optional cable), and the same easy connection to a Windows or Macintosh computer via a built-in USB connector. Also nice on the UltraHD is that you can swap out the rechargeable AA battery pack for regular AAs, a good backup feature.

The FlipVideo software is also an easy way to transfer movies to your computer and even manipulate them once they get there. The software is included, and it downloads when the camcorder is first attached to a computer. Aficionados will want to save the movie file and edit it with more advanced programs, such as Adobe’s Premiere Elements 8 on Windows or Apple’s iMovie, but there are no two ways about it: The Flip video line of camcorders is just the neatest thing out there. Details are online, including information on ways to personalize the camcorder, at www.theflip.com.

Another solid purchase, again, in my view, is the iPod Touch from Apple Inc. It’s everything the iPhone is, minus the phone and built-in camera. You can record voice memos with it (helpful for class lectures), and you can send and receive e-mail via a Wi-Fi connection when you have access.

The genius of the iPod Touch (as with the iPhone, for that matter), is that it is highly intuitive to use. The applications, and there are tens of thousands of these, are designed to be, well, responsive to touch. The integration of iTunes and the iPod Touch is superb. You can buy songs on the device (again, with a Wi-Fi hookup) and be off with your music quickly and easily. Connected to a good set of headphones or earbuds, you can have the equal of a concert-hall experience on the Metro or your flight home. Battery life is quite good, and you can get an iPod Touch with as much as 64 gigabytes of memory ($399; Apple offers a 32GB version for $299 and an 8GB version for $199), enough to hold 14,000 songs or 80 hours of video, Apple says.

I’ve written before about noise-canceling headphones, and the Bose QC-15s, released just before Labor Day, remain the gold standard of noise-canceling devices. At $299.95, however, they may not fit your holiday budget.

A decent alternative, especially when price is considered, is the Able Planet NC300W over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones, priced at $99.95 at retailers such as Best Buy but on sale for about half that right now at Amazon.com. These headphones won’t match the exact comfort or hearing experience of the Bose headset, but they will come close. The fit is decent, and when music plays, the noise canceling is very good. When used without a sound source, you’re likely to hear far more ambient noise, and with more volume than you would with the QC-15s - at least, that was my experience.

Another potential gift idea: any of the Brother P-Touch labeling systems. The P-Touch is the kind of product I can happily embrace as a piece of “tech” that just makes sense. It’s the all-grown-up version of the old Dymo labelers, but with smooth-printed labels on adhesive tape, as opposed to the embossed stuff that took forever to punch out. The PT-1880, which sounds like a naval vessel, offers some good basic features, prints labels up to three-quarters of an inch wide and should work nicely. Retail price is $49.99, but you might find it for less at Costco. For more product details, visit http://bit.ly/4vyzPA.

E-mail mkellner@ washingtontimes.com.