November 30, 2006

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They want what?
When checking your list twice isn’t enough
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

If there are any geeks on your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice shopping list, chances are they want some things you never knew existed.

Some of us are lucky enough to have relatives who subtly hint at specific stores and part numbers for their desired grownup toys, but if that service isn’t provided for you, giving the gift of love can be hard.

Don’t let tech terms wear you down. Get them what they really want, with a little help from this guide to words you might see this holiday season.

• Bluetooth and Blu-Ray are not the same. Blu-Ray is a new format of high definition DVD making its debut this year. It’s so named because it uses a blue laser to read discs rather than the red laser of those old-fashioned standard definition DVDs. Its competition is HD DVD, which also uses a blue laser, but Blu-Ray discs will not work in HD DVD players, and vice versa.

Bluetooth, on the other hand, is a wireless connectivity technology, best known for those earpieces people use for talking on their cell phones while walking into you. It’s also used for wireless mice, keyboards, game controllers and other devices.

• It’s pronounced “wee.” Nintendo had their new game console code named Revolution for a while, but when it actually came out this month, it was called the Wii. It’s notable for two reasons: the wireless controller senses movement, making gaming a little more physical than usual; and it’s markedly cheaper than the competition. The Playstation 3, also out this month, starts at $500 if you can find one, while the Wii is half that. Microsoft’s XBOX 360, out for a year, starts at $300.

• Zune is not a book by Frank Zerbert. Microsoft’s answer to the iPod, the Zune plays digital music and video. That makes it just like dozens of other MP3 players out there, but honestly, it’s not on many wish lists, because it’s ugly, has no really compelling differentiating features and, as of this writing, doesn’t even work properly with Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system, due out early next year.

• SiRFstarIII has nothing to do with catching waves or feudal class structures. Nope, SiRF Technology is the company that makes the essential chips within most consumer Global Positioning System (GPS) gadgets sold today. SiRFstarIII is just the name of their flagship product. If someone is asking you for a SiRFstarIII GPS, you won’t be able to find it just looking at product names in a catalog, because that’s what the internal electronics are called. Each GPS unit is built and marketed by some other company.

And, yeah, sure, I guess you could take your GPS on your surfboard with you. Can’t imagine why, but go ahead.

Above all, if someone is really, really specific on their wish list, it’s probably best not to substitute a similar item if you’re not familiar with the tech. You can always get them a lump of coal. It’s great for generating electricity.


11/23/2006 Zat zany Zune

11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
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