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Cool gift ideas for technophiles

27 Nov 2014  | Brian Dipert

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6. Catch big air

Apple's Airport Express is perhaps the handiest sub-$100 piece of networking hardware I've ever come across; at this point, I bet I've bought at least a dozen of them for myself, friends and family members. First and foremost, it's a perfectly capable router, especially for travel purposes or (when home) if you mate it with a separate multi-port switch to expand its sole wired LAN connection. It also optionally acts as an access point or wireless bridge. It can also operate as a print server. And you can stream audio to it, acting as an AirPlay receiver (and if you find an older model, even directly mate it to a Class D amplifier). My only beef? The necessity to configure it using an Apple software utility; there's no built-in Web server interface.

 Apple AirPort Express

Apple AirPort Express

7. Time for a smart watch

The Apple Watch won't arrive in time for holiday shopping, and now-shipping alternatives such as the Android Wear-based Moto 360 run $250 and up. If you're sufficiently intrigued by the smart watch concept to give the technology a test drive, but you don't want to make such a substantial fiscal investment, I'd encourage you to follow some good advice I recently came across and drop $99.99 on a Pebble.

 Pebble smartwatch

$99 Pebble smartwatch (Source: Pebble)

8. Safety first

I recently saw a basic wireless networked camera two-pack for $40; a slightly more advanced version with "night vision" infrared support is still on sale for $33 each as I write this. These prices blow me away, particularly considering the return on investment (as I discussed about a year ago in greater detail). Give a few of them a shot, and you'll quickly wonder what took you so long.

9. Get the NAS

Speaking of technologies that you'll quickly wonder why you didn't embrace long before, why haven't you added a NAS (network-attached storage) device to your LAN yet? Consider, for example, the ability to simultaneously and hands-free regularly back up all of the computers on your network. Consider the ability to store a single version of your audio, still image, video and other content for all other devices to access, versus redundantly spreading multiple copies of it everywhere. And then go buy one of your own; just make sure you get at least a two-drive unit, for RAID 1 mirroring that'll save you if a HDD ever fails (and how many of you caught, or even remember, my play-on-words attempt?)

10. A robot embrace

Last but not least, check out a robotic floor-cleaning device. I'm admittedly late to the iRobot party, but back in August I bought a few refurbished Roomba 560s for $175 each. They are ... awesome, both to watch as they work, and in the thoroughness of the job that they do. Admittedly, one of them had a wheel failure in short order, but the company promptly sent me a free spare part, which took only a few minutes to install. And the 560 dates from 2007, when its initial version was released (my units' later design unfortunately dropped all RF receiver facilities); newer models offer even more capabilities.

 iRobot Roomba Discovery 2.1

iRobot Roomba Discovery 2.1

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