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Computerworld's 2012 holiday gift guide

By Computerworld staff
December 6, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Stocking stuffers

Sometimes you don't want to shell out several hundreds of dollars for a snazzy but expensive tech gift. Sometimes you just want to show friends or family you're thinking of them by giving them a fun (and occasionally useful) gadget. Here are some nifty gifties for $30 and under.

GoSmart Clip
GoSmart Clip (credit: GoSmart). Click to view larger image.
GoSmart Clip

The GoSmart Clip provides a neat way to take a smartphone on the road safely. The adjustable front part of the clip attaches to the smartphone, while the back, an adjustable plastic loop, attaches to -- well, just about anything that moves: golf cart, baby stroller, grocery-shopping cart, car steering wheel, bicycle (stationary or regular) and so on. It's brilliant because it works and there's no manual required.

I didn't test all the possible use cases for this clip. But I did attach my iPhone 4S to my car's steering wheel -- to deliver voice and map directions to a new restaurant -- and to a grocery cart and a stationary bike, and used the clip as a "kickstand" for the phone on my desk to text with my kids and play Words with Friends.

One caveat: The GoSmart Clip does stay attached as advertised, but if you use it on a car steering wheel be prepared for a bit of kludgy-ness as you turn the wheel; you'll need to readjust your hands to avoid hitting the phone. And make sure to turn on the speakerphone before you attach the clip.

You might also like: The removable Koala iPad & Tablet Wall Mount from Dockem ($20). Not meant to be as mobile as the SmartClip, it holds iPads and various other tablets in place -- in the kitchen for following a recipe, say, or on the wall near your treadmill for watching video as you're working out. With care, you can move the mounts around without damaging walls or paint -- though I wasn't so lucky (one of my two mounts didn't come off easily) and I'm asking Santa for some spackle and paint before my boss notices.

-- Johanna Ambrosio

Price: $20
Summary: Your gift recipient can go far with this simple and low-cost way to attach a smartphone to just about anything that moves.

LaCie PetiteKey
The PetiteKey USB flash drive (credit: LaCie). Click to view larger image.
LaCie PetiteKey USB flash drive

This stealthy and very slim USB flash drive can hold from 8GB to 32GB of data at the very reasonable price of $15 to $40. The key-shaped USB drive is waterproof and it's one of the few thumb drives going that fits on a keychain and is actually smaller than your keys.

It also comes with LaCie's Private-Public software that offers AES 256-bit encryption, and you can back up your data to LaCie's Wuala cloud storage service for one year.

Note: The PetiteKey isn't yet on sale on LaCie's site, but the company says it will be between December 10th and 17th. The 8GB and 16GB versions may currently available at Amazon.com, but the 32GB is not.

-- Lucas Mearian

Street price at Amazon: $12 (8GB), $19 (16GB) or buy from LaCie (later this month)
Tech specs  |  Where to buy  |  Phone: (503) 844-4500
Summary: A USB key drive that looks like a key. Why didn't we think of that?

Scratch-n-Scroll Mousepad

Do you have a friend whose monitor is covered with Post-It notes? Are they always scrambling for a pen and paper to write something down while they're at their computer?

Scratch-n-Scroll mousepad
The Scratch-n-Scroll mousepad (credit: Quirky).
Click to view larger image.

Give them the Scratch-n-Scroll Mousepad, which combines a mouse pad with the Magic Slate they'll remember from their childhood.

It comes with a plastic stylus, but any (not too) pointy object will work. They can use it to jot down phone numbers and quick reminders while they're working; later, when they've returned the call or transferred the reminders to their calendar or to-do list, they just have to lift the surface to erase their notes and have a "clean slate."

-- Jake Widman

Street price: $15 or $15 direct from Quirky
Summary: A mouse pad you can write on with anything handy and erase instantly: Neat!

Cocoagraph photo-printed chocolates

Combining two hot trends -- Polaroid-style snapshots and artisan chocolate -- Cocoagraphs are edible photographs with retro styling. You upload your own high-resolution digital photos on the Cocoagraph site, and the company uses special printers to custom-print them on chocolate bars for a one-of-a-kind gift. The printed image is a type of frosting sheet that uses edible food coloring ink, according to company founder Rae Vittorelli.

Cocoagraph chocolate photo
Cocoagraph edible chocolate photos (credit: Cocoagraph).
Click to view larger image.

You can opt for milk, white, dark or organic dark chocolate (add-ins include dried strawberries and peppermint candies) with a variety of square and rectangular styles that evoke the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s. It costs $14 for a single 50-gram bar (about 1.75 oz.) or $18 for a three-pack of patterned mini bars (about 0.5 oz. each), with discounts available for orders of $50 or more from now through Feb. 13.

I bought a Cocoagraph recently (dark organic with sea salt), and I must say it was pretty darn cool to see my photo rendered in food form. Delicious too.

Note that it takes 5 to 7 days for your Cocoagraph to be created, and you'll need to add shipping time to that. The chocolate is susceptible to melting in extreme heat and cracking in extreme cold, so to ensure that it won't be damaged, the company recommends choosing UPS 2nd Day Air, which tacks a hefty $19 onto the cost; you should also make sure someone is available to accept the delivery. (During the mild California November, I chose the $10 UPS Ground option; it actually arrived via U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail -- and in perfect condition.)

The company's Web store currently accepts only PayPal payments, but you can use a credit card for phone or email orders.

-- Valerie Potter

Price: $14 and up
Size charts  |  Custom orders and email info  |  Phone: (415) 295-2509
Summary: Your own photos printed on artisan chocolate -- what's not to love?

Doctor Who TARDIS 4-Port USB Hub
The Doctor Who TARDIS 4-Port USB Hub (credit: ThinkGeek).
Click to view larger image.
Doctor Who TARDIS 4-Port USB Hub

Chances are you know at least a few Doctor Who fans. Replace that boring slab of plastic on their desks with this USB hub shaped like the TARDIS time- and space-travel craft from the beloved TV series.

It not only offers four USB 2.0 ports, but whenever a USB device is plugged into it, it makes the time-travel sound effect from the show and the blue light on top starts flashing. (There's also a button to trigger the effects manually; the sound effects can be turned off if they bother any nonfan roommates or co-workers.)

The only thing we can't be sure of is if it's bigger on the inside than the outside.

-- Jake Widman

Street price: $25 - $40
Summary: Doctor Who fans will thrill to the flashing lights and sound effects as their data travels through space (but not time) between their computer and USB devices.



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