- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2008

By now you might be in a bit of a panic: Christmas comes but once a year, the saying goes, but now it’s only three days away. Hanukkah began last night, Kwanzaa beckons. Are you sweating yet?

Some last-minute, computer-centered gift ideas:

• Software is always nice. What’s more, many programs can be purchased as downloads — particularly, it seems, applications for the Apple Macintosh, the iPhone and some other hand-helds.

Does your recipient need a word processor? How about a spreadsheet? I know, that’s not as warm and fuzzy as, say, a pair of slippers, but a need is a need. You can find these items at relatively low prices at places such as Costco Wholesale Corp., or online via Amazon.com. Order quickly today, and you might just make it for Thursday morning.

Gift certificates or cards to Apple’s iTunes store will let your giftee pick their own iPhone apps; these also can be ordered online. Modestly priced Mac apps (and not-so-modestly priced ones) are easy finds at the Apple Store at various area malls.

Also, if the need is truly esoteric, say something to create stamp albums (www.ezstamp.com) or for birding (www.birdwatching.com/software.html), Google and the Internet come to the rescue quite nicely. • Accessories are appreciated. Most computers come with keyboards and mice, but it’s nice to get replacement/enhancement keyboards. Microsoft Corp. and Logitech International S.A. shine here; I like products from both firms.

Microsoft’s Wireless Media Desktop 1000, which lists for around $50, offers all sorts of keys to control media functions, and also a new Vista Flip 3D Key that’ll rotate your open Windows Vista windows and let you select one. I’ve never seen a bad Microsoft desktop set, by the way.

I also like the notion of Logitech’s $80 Cordless Desktop Wave set, a keyboard and mouse that will work wirelessly with either your Mac or PC. It, too, has the Flip 3D key and some other nice buttons, but also adds a “wave” design to give your hands a break. The accompanying mouse is very ergonomic, as well.

Similarly priced (before a $30 online “instant rebate” at www.shopping.hp.com) is the HP Wireless Desktop Comfort Keyboard, which is geared more toward Windows users. In fact, it combines the favorite “ctrl-alt-delete” combination, pressed by users when Windows freezes, into a single key. Also handy is a volume-control knob — yes, a knob that’ll let you dial up the volume when needed.

• On the hardware front, I’d like to propose something I’ve written about here before: the Neat Receipts scanner. It’ll cost you around $200 in most places, including the company site (www.neatco.com).

What I’m liking about the Neat Receipts product is that it’s moving into business cards and general scanning. The units draw power from a computer’s USB port, making them smaller and more portable than some others, and that means you would be more likely to use them on the road.

Organization is a continuing goal of mine, so I’m hopeful that 2009 will be a better year on that front. This product might be the key for you (or a friend), too.

Send e-mail to mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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