What’s the most exciting part about the holidays? There aren’t any, unless you’re 7-years-old and get oodles of presents under a dangerously dry tree or metal pole or some other object. Like, who wants to go through the stress of talking to your relatives about what they want? The only smart way to do is to hand out cash to each and every one of your special guys and gals and let them buy whatever they want. Yes, it would be smarter to realize that exchanging money or gifts is a zero-sum affair, but the holidays are all about the spirit of giving, the spirit of going into mountains of credit card debt.
So, given that cheery (yet logical!) introduction, what could I possibly recommend you spend your hard-earned dollars on this Christmastime?
A few things, as a matter of fact.
So many things came out this year—where to begin?
I’m gonna assume your and yours already have an iPod. If not get, one. They’re good. Or get a Zune. If you’re like me and grab 99 percent of your music from Usenet or BitTorrent trackers (more on that later), so it really doesn’t matter what PMP you get. Just make sure there’s enough space on there to fulfill your needs. Personally, I use a black iPod nano, for reasons I’ve already gone into.
Now, where to get music to fill your PMP of choice? A few months ago I would have said to beg your friends and family for an OiNK invite, but those heady days are long behind us. Now, your two best options are What.cd and Waffles.fm. Both are more or less the same, so don’t feel bad if you could “only” get into What.cd (or Waffles.fm). Just be grateful someone hooked you up. I don’t know, scour IRC, ask your music-savvy friends, or keep reading us; I occasionally give out invites when I’m in the mood.
If you’re really into house and trance and all that nonsense, look into TribalMixes. It could have the ugliest UI design I’ve ever seen, but this side of TechnoMoon it’s the best free resource for DJ live sets and radio shows. It’s also open to the public, with no silly invites required.
Conversely, you could be a terrific Secret Santa and hook your friends and family members up with an unlimited Usenet account: Giganews, Easynews, etc. Just buy him or her a month. If they like it, tell them to pony up and buy their own access from there on out.
There are other, better “private” BitTorrent trackers out there (especially once you get into video downloads), but I’m pretty sure they don’t like too much publicity.
Keeping with our music theme, what if one of your friends or relatives is “into” making music. Say, house music? In this case, I recommend pretty much anything made by M-Audio. I’ve personally used the Torq MixLabto much success and Vince has been all over the Xponenet recently. He says it makes anyone into Paul Van Dyk, which, to our God-fearing American readers, is quite the complement. The Torq software is stupid easy to use (if you can drop and drop files into a program and click a sync icon, you can make a mix) and the hardware at least makes you look competent, especially the Xponent.
Um, so other stuff.
I recently went through a bit of a photography stint and used the Nikon D40X for a photojournalism class here. The entry-level digital SLR was more than adequate for my needs (manual mode, screw around with the aperture and shutter a little, etc.), but if you’re a little (or a lot) more advanced, check out Nikon’s latest SLRs, the D3 and D300. (That’s the D300.) (The D3 is for professionals while the D300 is for prosumers.) Honestly, if all you’re going to do is leave the camera on auto mode, then stick with the D40X (or a point-and-shoot if you’re afraid of making the SLR jump), but if you’re gonna go to New Zealand and need digital photos that you can later sell to the Associated Press or National Geographic, you probably can’t go wrong.
You know, I’d tell y’all to look into getting a GPS device, but my father has had nothing but problems with all of the ones I’ve thrown at him. Trips that could easily have taken a few minutes wound up taking several and we’ve both wanted the throw the damn thing out the window. Did he read the manual? I don’t know. All I know is that he’s the average Joe; if he has problems with those infernal devices lots of folks will.
And that’s my gift guide. I’d recommend World of Warcraft, but I’ve seen it destroy too many lives already as it is.