Holiday Gift Ideas for That `Significant Other'
Every year around Christmas, most students who play the Secret Santa game find themselves in possession of too many 2 oz. bottles of Grand Marnier, little trinkets from Urban Outfitters, singing telegrams and other non-utilitarian presents. In computer lingo, those are B-O-R-I-N-G.
So this Christmas, the Happy Hacker thought he'd lend a hand to holiday shoppers with a few computer-related gift ideas.
Actually, if you're giving to a real computerphile, give non-computer gifts. (People like the Happy Hacker already spend too much time in front of the computer screen.) Buy them something social--a gift certificate to Steve's or tickets to a show.
But for a computer-related gift, here are a few suggestions relayed via satellite from Santa's North Pole helpers:
First Gift Idea: Reems of Paper
Computer paper ($8-$25) is a safe staple in demand by letter-writers and thesis compilers alike. Fanfold paper is available in various sizes, though most writers prefer 9 1/2 x 11 paper since the sides rip off to make it 8 1/2x 11. Paper comes in various quantities, depending on how much you're willing to spend.
Second Gift Idea: Dust Covers
Another relatively inexpensive gift is a dust cover to help keep a computer from collecting nasty particles floating around a dorm room. Dust covers ($10-$40, depending on its size and shape) are designed to fit specific computer models, printers and monitors--so it's important to know what brand and model you are trying to purchase for.
Third Gift Idea: Surge Suppressors and Line Filters
Line filters and surge suppressors ($30-$90) help take the inconsistency out of Harvard's power lines. Most computer owners could benefit from any one of these goodies, especially if they live near any large-appliances, such as laundry machines, refrigerators or even toaster-ovens.
Unsuspecting undergraduates who own a surge protector will never know if at any moment their paper was just saved from voltage destruction.
Fourth Gift Idea: Software
Although software is a terrific present, most software is expensive (at least $100) and should only be given to people who have expressed a specific need. Computer users tend to prefer one software package over another, and it's best to ask before buying. While it is possible to buy someone any brand of surge suppressor, the Happy Hacker does not recommend giving just any spelling checker or database program without first checking on the user's needs and preferences.
Fifth Gift Idea: Disk Drive Cleaners
Another nifty stocking stuffer is a disk drive cleaner ($5-$15), a handy little device to keep someone's disk drive reading loud and clear. Basically, a special disk is inserted into the disk drive, and it uses its non-abrasive cleaner to clean the read-write head.
Sixth Gift Idea: Disk Storage Boxes
Every computer owner has a collection of disks, and few have a convenient way to organize them. Diskette carriers and boxes, varying from simple plastic ($5) to fancy wood ($75), efficiently store anywhere from five to 150 disks.
Seventh Gift Idea: Blank Disks
Just like students and spiral notebooks, computer owners will always need disks ($1-$3 each). Once again, before buying a set, make sure they are compatible with the computer in question. It's important to confirm with a salesman that certain disks will work with a specific computer.
Eight Gift Idea: Mouse Pads and Feet
Macintosh owners without a convenient surface to slide their mouse over, will certainly appreciate a mouse pad ($10). This handy rubber (or synthetic) slab helps keep the mouse moving smoothly, and prevents dust from accumulating on the mouse's main moving part. Also useful for mouse improvement is a new set of the little teflon feet on each corner of the mouse ($3) they will also improve the mouse's glide, whether on a special pad or just a desktop.
Ninth Gift Idea: Computer Books
Regardless of your computer proficiency, computer books at Christmas are right up there with socks and underwear: you can't beat 'em for practicality.
For new owner, The Apple Macintosh Book ($19.95) by Cary Lu provides several helpful hints on using a Mac. More sophisticated and artistically minded users would probably love a copy of the witty and philosophical Zen and the Art of the Macintosh (16.95). Perhaps a how-to guide to Lotus 1-2-3 or Database III would be appropriate for a senior doing a quantitative thesis. For those addictive hackers who eat, sleep and read computers, Hackers ($4.50) by Steven Levy is a fun account of famous and infamous computer heros. The Soul of a New Machine ($3.95) by Tracy Kidder is also enjoyable reading, even for the computer neophyte. If someone is looking to buy a computer, John Bear's Computer Wimp ($9.95) has a great deal of Happy Hacker advice.
Tenth Gift Idea: The Secret Weapon
If none of the above sounds appealing, alcohol is also a useful item in weaning computer weanies away from their terminals. Start with a mild of fering such as Bailey's Irish Cream. For hackers already in the cold turkey process, something harder, Stolichnaya 100 proof vodka may be best.
As for the Happy Hacker's holiday wish list, I'd just as soon get a singing telegram, two pound bag of caramel popcorn, or a candy cane. Of course, a laserprinter under the Christmas tree wouldn't be so bad either.