- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

The clock is ticking: Roughly three weeks remain before Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa arrive and shopping may be a bit difficult.

Neiman-Marcus says its $75,000 special-edition BMW and $50,000 Louis Vuitton luggage set are already out of stock, with the BMW going in just seven minutes. So, a tech holiday may be your best option.

Some more gift ideas:

• A low-cost object of d-Zire is Palm’s Zire 21 hand-held for about $99.99. This is a monochrome, 8 MB personal digital assistant that offers the basics, and then some. Included are applications to handle to-do lists, appointments, memos, expenses and a calculator; many other Palm-compatible programs can be added. The 8 MB of RAM may not be enough to satisfy a corporate executive, but for others it’ll be more than sufficient.

I don’t believe you can find a better product for the money, and it’ll make a super-neat gift.

• Business card scanners: I mentioned the IRIS Scanner for Mac users in this space last year (still available for under $200 from www.irislink.com/welcome/us.html) and also would add the CardScan 600 from Corex (www.corex.com) as a great gift.

Here’s the principle for both: Hook up either one to a computer, load the software, and turn that never-ending stack of business cards into an updated address book.

Both products offer accuracy and performance. Neither is perfect, given that business card designs and printing methods aren’t perfect. A card with black lettering on a dark blue background will prove difficult to scan. But you can edit the scanned information with either device.

Organization is something I’m still striving to achieve, but having these kinds of devices is a start.

• USB switches: Another product that caught my eye is the Belkin USB switch, which lets you hook up two or four computers to a single USB device, such as a printer. It’s a great idea if you have a PC, a Mac and want to share an output device, or an audio accessory or a scanner.

The two-device Belkin switch, available for under $50 in stores, is compact, does not require a separate electric supply, and its software performance under Windows is excellent; I have a few hassles with the Mac, but can overcome them.

• Cleanliness is next to … your computer’s keyboard, if you know what’s good for you. 3M has some neat products for computer cleaning, including one for keyboards that includes a foam-type applicator that will get around keys and into crevices. It costs about $7 at most stores. Ask for the Keyboard Cleaner 674 kit.

Also useful is a can of compressed air to blast dirt out of tiny spaces. But to make your keyboard a delight, start with the cleaning kit.

• Save your Mac screen … If you have a Mac PowerBook or IBook, you know that oils transferred from your fingers to the keyboard can be picked up by the screen, causing permanent damage. RadTech of St. Louis (www.radtech.us) offers a great “ScreensavRz” product, a cloth that slips over the keys, allowing you to close the lid safely. The cloth also can be used to clean the display screen. Prices range from $12.95 to $17.95, and they’re very neat, as are the matching sleeves the firm makes for the notebook itself.

Together, the two are a great gift and shipping is super fast. My order arrived, via priority mail, in a couple of days.

E-mail: MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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