Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Geeky Christmas presents

Geeky Christmas Ideas

The festive season is upon us and you need to rack your brains for some new gift ideas. So do I and I’ve been keeping a geeky eye on what’s out there.

Idea number one: If you’ve grasped the broadband nettle, you or your kids may want to play a game or two. I’ve searched local stores for a dinosaur game for my four year old and come up blank. I turned to the Internet and found a cute game called Diego`s Dinosaur Adventure. My son loves it. It came from a site called
www.bigfishgames.com that prides itself on a new game per day. Their games are good and varied; there are kid’s games, puzzles, card games, word games, hidden treasure games and more. The games are either playable online or downloadable. You are expected to create an account after which you can try any game for free for an hour. Seeing as they have hundreds of games, that alone would keep you gaming for a while. Playing a game usually involves a chunky download procedure only recommended with broadband. I chose to buy a game and picked the Casual Pack option which allows me to download two games within two months for the price of approximately R70 per game and thus play as often as I like and for as long as I like. I paid by Credit Card and when I queried the BigFish Help desk if I can download the game on my home computer, I received a prompt and helpful return email, so the big fishies are on the ball. I recommend this site if you have cap left at the end of the month and you give the kids the go ahead to “play around”.

Idea number two: If you’ve splurged out and acquired an mp3 player, be it to enhance your jogging or hiking experience or if you are a married insomniac whose mind does not stop when your spouse expects lights out peace ‘n quiet, here’s an idea: Audio books. Having just returned from a visit to my family, I discovered that my sister is as much of a geek as I am. She has surfed the Net and shared three wonderful audio book sites with me: freeclassicaudiobooks.com,
www.audiobooksforfree.com and www.gutenberg.org (which have free text and audio books). These sites allow you to download audio books in mp3 format for free. The trick here is to right click over the link and choose “Save Target As”. This will save the mp3 straight to your hard drive, from where you can transfer it to a DVD for your DVD player or to your mp3 player. The selection of audio books available is immense and the reason they are free is because they are old and the copyright has expired. Titles such as Huckleberry Finn by or Treasure Island are available. The books are separated into “human read” and “computerised text-to-voice conversions” and I wouldn’t bother with the computer version as it does not make for a pleasurable listening experience.
If you support South African music, visit
www.sovent.co.za.mpcharts.htm for a selection of free SA music. I recommend the video ‘Dragonflies & Astronauts’ by the Parlotones, it’s phenomenal!

Idea number three: I dropped by my local Kodak Express shop at Scottsville today and owner Paul Henman proudly showed off his Kodak Printing Kiosk. You’ve probably seen these machines in photo printing shops all around town and at Cascades, the Mall, Howick with Fuji equivalents at Hayfields shopping centre. What these nifty little numbers do is allow us mere mortals to plug and play. They have zillions of slots under the monitor which take just about any interface you can think of from CD’s, DVD’s, stiffy’s, USB memory sticks, XD-Picture Cards, Mini SD, Multimedia/SD/RSMMC, Smart Media, Compact Flash to cell phones with either Bluetooth or infrared. The Kiosk siphons the photographs off your cell phone/memory stick/whatever and starts giving you printing options of photos you select. These options range from Christmas greeting cards inclusive of the photo of your choice, to ID Photos, 2008 Calendars by month or year your photo as centre piece, birthday cards, invites, announcements and refined collages of a range of your pictures. You are then guided through photographic enhancement options such as sepia or black and white conversions, as well as red eye reduction and contrast/brightness balance. It then bombards you with over one thousand border choices, background options and the ability to add your own text. It’s all touch screen and very simple. Once you have made your choices you can then print to your hearts content with print pricing as low as R2 per jumbo if you print ten or more. Greeting cards have panorama dimensions and A4 collages cost around R20. These photos are then not spewed out on a little home photo printer next to the Kiosk, in case you’re wondering, they are sent to and printed on the shops’ printing equipment and it all happens while you wait. You are even able to burn a CD with your selection of photos, which is ideal if you want to dump the pictures off of your cell phone.

Ho Ho Happy Christmas shopping to you all. You can contact the geek on

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