They want what?
When checking your list twice isn’t enough
By John “jaQ” Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
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.