A Computer Christmas
Ho ho! Christmas is now just around the corner, and Chanukah begins at sundown tomorrow night, which means it's not too early to start worrying about shopping for gifts for your loved ones.
In case you're tired of giving Veritas ties to your grandfather and cheap cologne to your roommates, read on for some computer gift ideas.
(A word of disclaimer: As I'm close to broke after having bought too many, uh, spirits to celebrate this holiday season, I don't plan to actually buy anything from this guide myself. So don't send me e-mail to "flame" me if, say, your girlfriend jilts you because you bought her a mousemat instead of something more memorable from Victoria's Secret.)
Has your best friend been complaining about not being connected to the campus data network lately? That may be a hint that she wants an Ethernet card for her computer. Available from the Technology Product Center for between $150 and $250 (and possibly less through mail-order), these devices allow a PC or Macintosh to access the campus network, which has been activated in the Yard and will be available in the Quad in January.
For $150, you can also get a high-speed faxmodem at the Egghead Software store located at 1000 Mass. Ave. Manufactured by Intel, the company best known for its microprocessor products, these faxmodems feature 14,400 bits per second (bps) transfer rates for both data and fax transmissions and are ideal for dialing up to husc systems as well as sending out faxes directly from your (or your recipient's) computer.
If telecommunications don't excite you consider multimedia upgrade kits. Starting at $400, these kits include a CD-ROM drive, a stereo sound card (absent in Mac versions since Macs have built-in stereo sound), a pair of speakers and an admirable collection of CD-ROMs.
If $400 sounds too much to spend even for your most beloved, you can keep your holiday budget down by skipping the multimedia kit and just getting some CD-ROMs (Let your friends worry about the CD-ROM drives themselves!).
For the PC, recommended CD-ROM titles include "Multimedia Beethoven," which features a wonderful performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and bar-by-bar analysis and "Bookshelf" from Microsoft, "Languages of the World from NTC" and "Star Trek: 25th Anniversary" from Interplay.
For the Mac gang, Microsoft's "Multimedia Beethoven," is also available. Another title worth checking out is Grolier's "Multimedia Encyclopedia."
Do you have a precocious little sister who aspires to become a chess grandmaster? If so, Software Toolworks' "Chessmaster 4000" for the PC or "Chessmaster 3000" for the Mac may brighten up her face with a big smile--and not because she can beat the chess-playing software all the time!
In fact, the popular chess program is very a strong player--I say that because I lose to it a lot--and can be a great aid in teaching chess. If you are more into the fun aspect of chess playing, take a look at "Battle Chess" from Interplay. It's the only chess program that animates the chess board.
As it's important to stay healthy during the holiday season--even for a computer--you may want to give gifts of anti-virus software, which protect computer against malicious little bugs that may make a system totally unusable.
For the Mac platform, Symantec's "Anti-Virus for the Mac" (commonly known as SAM) provides powerful defense against viruses. For the PC, the "Norton Anti-Virus," also from Symantec, has won my respect by rescuing my computer from a viral infection a year ago.
What's the surest thing to come after Christmas? If you said taxes, you were on the right track. For parents who enjoy doing their own taxes (such as is the case with mine), "Turbo Tax '93" and "MacIn Tax," both from Chipsoft, will no doubt be received warmly (if not as a reminder of a tough tax season).
The programs, with separate versions for the 1040 series of federal income returns and for a number of states, have been updated to reflect changes in the federal tax law and are of invaluable help in correctly figuring out your taxes.
If your mom and dad don't figure out their own income taxes, you can still buy them "Quicken," available for both PCs and Macs, so they will have an easier time next year managing the pots of cash they may have put away.
The popular finance program, from Intuit, won the 1993 PC Magazine Editor's Choice award and has been trusted by many who rely on it to straighten their finances.
Still need ideas for stocking stuffers? Little things such as mousepads, palmrests, power surge protectors, and computer tool kits all make great holiday gifts.
Like your grandmother used to tell you, it's not how much you give, it's how much love you show by giving.
And remember, you are always welcome to show your love for this column by sending me any computerware.
Haibin Jiu '94, associate photography chair of The Crimson, is the former president of the Harvard Computer Society. His column appears Tuesdays.