Cool stuff: Your 2009 holiday gift guide

Find the best HDTVs, laptops, smartphones and some surprise goodies to give this year

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Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
Livescribe Pulse Smartpen  (Click to view larger image)
Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

Know someone who needs to take a lot of notes in business meetings, interviews, classes or elsewhere? Give her a leg up with Livescribe's Pulse Smartpen, which does triple duty as an ordinary pen, a voice recorder and a digital record keeper.

The Pulse Smartpen's embedded infrared camera tracks and records your pen strokes as you write on Livescribe's digital paper, and it simultaneously records audio. Just tap your notes to have the pen play back what was being said at the time. Later you can upload your notes and audio to any computer running Windows 7, Vista or XP SP3, or Mac OS X 10.5.5 or later; if you like, you can even share them online via the Livescribe Community or Facebook.

The Pulse pens come in two models: the $170 2GB pen holds about 200 hours of audio, while the $200 4GB pen holds about 400 hours of audio. Both include a USB charging cradle, a starter notebook of digital paper, a headset, a protective case and 500MB of online storage.

There's also a $250 Pro Pack that includes all of the above (with a 4GB pen and a more upscale case and charging cradle) as well as transcription software to convert handwritten notes into digital text.

Also worth checking out are Pulse Smartpen apps, available at Livescribe's beta Application Store. There are currently about 30 paid and free apps, mostly games and reference materials.

-- Valerie Potter

Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe Inc.

Street price: $150 - $170 for 2GB model; $180 - $200 for 4GB model

Tech specs  |  Store locator  |  Phone: 877-727-4239

Summary: The Pulse Smartpen is an invaluable tool for anyone who takes a lot of notes.

Mvix Nubbin MS-811N Wireless-N USB adapter
Mvix Nubbin MS-811N

Mvix Nubbin MS-811N

(Click to view larger image)

If someone you know has an old laptop that supports only 802.11b or g Wi-Fi connections, give him the gift of speed with an 802.11n adapter that pops into the laptop's USB port. There are lots of USB Wireless-N adapters out there, but the advantage of the Nubbin MS-811N is that it's truly tiny -- it sticks out of the laptop just 18mm (.71 inches).

What's more, it supports WPA2 encryption, so if your giftee has been using the unsafe WEP encryption on her network just so that old notebook could connect, she can now set it at the safer WPA2.

The Nubbin supports Mac OS X, Linux and Windows 2000, XP and Vista. Note that you must connect to an 802.11n router in order for the adapter to take advantage of 802.11n speeds. (It does work with 802.11b/g routers as well, but what's the point?) Also, while the Nubbin is very fast at short ranges, the lack of external antennas means it's not the best wireless adapter for long-range Wi-Fi without a direct line of sight to the router.

-- Valerie Potter

Nubbin MS-811N from MvixUSA

Street price: $38 - $40  |  Tech specs (PDF)  |  Phone: 866-310-4923

Summary: The Nubbin Wireless-N adapter brings fast connectivity in a teeny tiny package.

Dots gloves
Dots gloves
Dots gloves  (Click to view larger image)

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, December means two things: the holiday season and the beginning of winter weather. And for folks in colder climes, that means covering up with coats, hats and gloves.

All those smartphone owners who are constantly tapping on their iPhones and Droids will have to choose between pocketing their mobile devices and having frostbitten fingers -- unless somebody buys them a pair of Dots gloves for the holidays. Dots gloves have conductive areas -- "dots" -- on the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of each glove, allowing users to touch, tap and swipe away on their mobile devices without having to expose their digits to the wintry weather.

There are three styles (available in small, medium and large sizes), each suited for a slightly different temperature: tight-knit acrylic for $15; extra-thick acrylic for $20; and a nylon shell with fleece lining for $25.

These are popular items; when this was written, the $15 Dots were sold out, the $20 style was sold out of size small, and the $25 style could be pre-ordered for mid-December.

-- Barbara Krasnoff

Dots gloves from Dots Gloves LLC

Price: $15 - $25

Summary: If your giftee is a smartphone addict, these gloves will keep them clicking in the cold.

Geek gift basket

Who says gift baskets have to be full of cookies and cheese balls? This year, give the techies in your life a truly useful gift basket full of tools that'll come in handy for tech-related tasks.

Micro-Max 19-in-1 Multi-tool, LED Magnetized Telescopic Rescue Stick, 'No, I will not fix your computer' bumper sticker

Useful tools from ThinkGeek

(Click to view larger image)

Start with the Micro-Max 19-in-1 Multi-tool ($13), which includes two hex wrenches, six screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutter/stripper/crimper, bottle opener and more. This handy stainless steel gadget folds down into a tiny square that can be attached to a keychain.

Next, add an LED Magnetized Telescopic Rescue Stick ($5). Armed with a bright light and a magnet, this pen-sized stick extends out 2 feet to retrieve dropped screws and other metal pieces from dark corners and wire tangles. Finally, throw in a 'No, I will not fix your computer' bumper sticker ($3) that your techie can use in self-defense.

All these products (and many more like them) are available from ThinkGeek -- you can mix and match gear and arrange it all nicely in a spare bag, tin, box or, yes, basket to create the perfect gift for your favorite geek.

-- Valerie Potter

Micro-Max 19-in-1 Multi-tool, LED Magnetized Telescopic Rescue Stick and 'No, I will not fix your computer' bumper sticker from ThinkGeek Inc.

Price: $21 (plus a basket, bag or box)  |  Phone: 888-GEEKSTUFF

Summary: A gift basket full of useful gadgets will bring a smile to the face of your favorite techie.

CableDrop multipurpose cable clips

Some gadgets are so simple and yet so useful that you can't believe nobody came up with them before. The CableDrop multipurpose cable clips are not only simple, useful and inexpensive, they're stylish as well.

CableDrop multipurpose cable clips

CableDrop cable clips

(Click to view larger image)

These small, gracefully curved items grasp power and peripheral cords to keep them out of the way -- you simply peel off the backing of the adhesive-coated back, press the CableDrop to the desired surface, and voila! You have a much neater (and chic-er) tabletop.

You get a pack of six CableDrop clips for $10, either in bright yellow, purple and green shades, or in muted white, brown and gray. The perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who has multiple cords and cables to manage -- which is pretty much all of us, right?

-- Barbara Krasnoff

CableDrop from Bluelounge Design

Price: $10  |  Phone: 626-564-2802

Summary: CableDrop clips keep workspaces clear with style.

Splitterbot
Splitterbot  (Click to view larger image)
Splitterbot Headphone Sharing Robot

What's better than a cute robot on a keychain? A cute robot on a keychain that helps you share music.

Pop off Splitterbot's head, plug it into a standard audio jack on an iPod, cell phone or other music-playing device, then plug two headphone cords into his eyes to enjoy music with a friend. Neat!

-- Valerie Potter

Splitterbot from ThinkGeek Inc.

Price: $8  |  Phone: 888-GEEKSTUFF

Summary: Splitterbot splits any standard audio jack so that two people can listen at once.

Want more? See Cool stuff: Video gift guide for the gadget generation.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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