- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas comes but once a year, the saying goes, and this year it’s on the sixth day of Hanukkah. This means there are plenty of gift shoppers out there, and as the clock ticks down, panic may set in.

Relax, if only a little. Here are some suggestions for last-minute shopping. Or for treating yourself if the situation calls for that.

Get a flash drive: One of the amazing bargains right now is the Kingston Digital 8 GB USB 2.0 Hi-speed Datatraveler Flash Drive, which is an unwieldy name for a flash drive that not only stores 8 gigabytes of information (approximately 630 copies of the PDF version of this newspaper), but also has urDesk, which is a private “desktop” on which you can store files or small programs such as an included photo viewer or a Web browser, also included. The idea is you can use another computer but keep your data and browsing private, though this feature is limited to computers running Microsoft Windows.

I’m impressed, but also with the bargain-basement prices Amazon.com has on these Kingston devices: the 8 GB model is selling for $8.99, a whopping 63 percent below the list price, and can be at your door overnight via Amazon’s Prime service. Similarly impressive discounts are available on 4, 16 and 32 GB models.

I don’t go anywhere without a flash drive, and it happens to be this Kingston product. If having a way to make data portable is important to you, then you’ll want one of these, too.

Get a guidebook: If the experienced techie (or a tech tyro) in your life is getting a new computer or tablet or smartphone; upgrading their laptop’s operating system; or beginning to blog with WordPress, a book can make life much easier. Sure, there’s lots of help online, but having a printed guide (with an index, no less), is something else.

For example, David Pogue’s magnum opus, Mac OS X Lion: The Missing Manual, (Pogue Press/O’Reilly, $34.99) is worth its weight in Apple Genius Bar visits for the extensive amount of information it supplies. Mr. Pogue’s exhaustive treatment of the Mac operating system will have a newcomer leaping tall buildings in a single bound, or just about. It’s a supergood, clear reference.

I’m also a huge fan of any title in the Dummies series, to which (full disclosure) I contributed a volume back during the first Clinton administration. Having gone through the editing process, I can attest - as I’ve done here before - that the final product is almost always a well-researched, well-presented effort that’s easy to read and helpful. Many Dummies titles are available with full color illustrations, such as Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s WordPress Web Design for Dummies, (Hungry Minds, $29.99) and that helps a lot.

And one more book: To borrow a phrase, let me suggest “one more thing” you’ll want to consider as a gift (even, again, for yourself). It’s Walter Isaccson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs, which lists for $35 but is available in many places for about half price. An audiobook version, unabridged, lists for $49.99, but can be had for $29.24, or 42 percent less, at Amazon.com.

Mr. Isaccson is a writer for whom the word “compelling” was probably invented. Then again, it also was probably created for Jobs, whose drive, vision and dedication-bordering-on-fanaticism gave the world so many “insanely great” products, as the original Macintosh computer was supposed to be.

While I never had the opportunity to meet Jobs, I have met many of the other people referenced in Mr. Isaccson’s book. And, having been involved in this field for most of the time that Apple has been in business, I’m familiar enough with this story to verify that for a book published so quickly after its subject’s demise, it will offer a good record of an incredible life. (Although, to be fair, others disagree.)

Either way, for its insights into the technology industry as a whole, into the history of Apple and its products, and, again, the very compelling life of Mr. Jobs, you can’t find a better telling. It’s a great read, I promise.

Send email to mkellner@washingtontimes.com.



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