- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Three major holidays loom large on the horizon after Thanksgiving: Hanukkah, which runs Dec. 19-26; Christmas, Dec. 25; and Kwanzaa, Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. (Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, concludes today.)

For these holidays, finding gifts can be a challenge. Here are some suggestions for smart tech-related gifts.

Digital radio is a hit: For many reasons, not the least making the crawl on Interstate 270 more bearable, XM Satellite Radio is a rather nice gift. Monthly fees start at $9.95, with longer-term deals available. Receivers range between $70 (for a unit that works with Windows PCs) and $125 for ones that work in your car.

But the hardware is only half the story: It’s the service and the content that makes XM, based in the District, worthwhile. Whether it’s music, news or talk — even channels devoted to old-time radio, children’s programming and comedy — there’s a wide range of content on XM to help make the longest road trip more enjoyable.

The PC version of XM, sadly only available for Windows, is a nice harbinger of things to come. One hopes the firm will bring out a model for Mac users. It would be nice to have the option of digital radio at one’s desk, regardless of computing platform. Receivers for cars and homes are at most major audio stores. Details can be found online at www.xmradio.com.

Multifunction can be multifun: Lexmark’s X5150 multifunction printer, which retails for $129.99, prints, scans, copies and, with appropriate software, will fax through a Windows-based PC. On the Mac side, printing is excellent; scanning can be tricky. But for a device that prints and copies, the X5150 is a marvel, and well worth considering.

I’m especially impressed by its high-quality printouts: the blacks are sharp, the colors are bright. Copies are reasonably quick, especially in color, but do not rival the speed of a regular photocopier. The printer easily handles envelopes, labels and other odd forms. Print cartridges are long-lasting and not too expensive, though heavy users may want to explore other options. But for a home user, the device should be a welcome and useful tool.

It’s also rather stylish, in my opinion, though not as small as some printers. The paper path is straight through from back to front, so paper jams are less frequent than with some other products.

PC users will find a wealth of software including the ABBYY FineReader scanning software, as well as PC-Fax software, in the box along with the printer. You can find the X5150 at major retailers, as well as at www.lexmark.com.

Security is always a good idea: The $69.95 Norton Internet Security 2004 from Symantec combines Norton AntiVirus 2004, Norton AntiSpam 2004, Norton Personal Firewall 2004 and Norton Parental Control. The antivirus and antispam products are designed to block nasty items from either reaching your computer or cluttering your inbox. A personal fire wall will keep intruders from hitting your computer via a broadband connection such as cable or DSL Internet. Parental-control software will help keep your children safe online.

Each component has been updated, and each is a worthy contender in the marketplace. Symantec’s dedication makes this product a welcome gift.

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

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