For techies, there’s Yuletide cool aplenty

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      If the prospect of a chubby white guy clad all in red breaking into your home and eating your baking, consuming your milk, and filling your stockings doesn’t thrill you as much as it used to, maybe that’s because you’ve lost touch with that childlike wonder inside. Or perhaps it’s because you no longer know what the cool toys are, and nothing is going to recapture the thrill of that Christmas when Santa got you your very own Teddy Ruxpin. To help you rekindle some of that holiday magic, here’s the Straight’s annual techie gift guide.


      Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
      ($499.99; Black’s, Kerrisdale Cameras) For those who aren’t quite ready to make the leap to a digital single-lens reflex camera, or for those wanting something small and portable that can still snap a great picture, Panasonic’s 10.1-megapixel pocket camera is just the thing. A good lens helps, as does the fact that it’s speedy at shooting pictures, which can be a boon in the dark. Add the ability to shoot HD movies and a boffo three-inch LCD for viewing your shots, and this is an attractive little camera indeed.

      Sony Bloggie Touch Camera
      ($229.99; Future Shop, Sony Style) These days, pretty much any smartphone has a camera and video recorder built into it, but sometimes you still need a dedicated camcorder that’s small and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Enter the Bloggie, Sony’s take on the entry-level web video camera pioneered by the Flip a few years ago. If what your giftee is looking for is Facebook and YouTube fame, then the Bloggie may be your best bet, as it’s able to capture full HD video and store up to four hours of a fan-made Doctor Who episode on its eight gigabytes of internal memory. A pop-out USB connector allows for quick and easy uploading to the web.

      Computers and accessories

      MacBook Air
      ($1,049 to $1,649, depending on screen size and memory; Apple Store, Best Buy, Future Shop, Simply Computing, WestWorld Computers) It’s hard to describe just how visually striking the new MacBook Air is without resorting to a cliché comparison to runway models. The first generation of the Air was a good stab at what a super-light, super-thin computer could be without sacrificing performance and function, but they weren’t quite ready for prime time. This latest version of the Air offers an even slimmer body while beefing up the internals so it could fill the role of many people’s only computer. The 11-inch version is especially compelling for anyone who’s constantly on the go.

      ($549 to $879, depending on connectivity and memory; Apple Store, Best Buy, Future Shop, Simply Computing, WestWorld Computers) While there are competitors, nobody has yet managed to release a worthy challenger to Apple’s tablet computer. Earlier this year, Apple made a bold move into a category that was previously near death after years of terrible Windows tablets, besting the competition in both price and functionality. A solid collection of apps expands its capabilities to the point where it almost seems possible that the iPad could be everything to everyone. It’s also one of the most natural-feeling web experiences around. Despite the potential for overhype, Apple continues to insist on calling it “magical”, and the iPad is the real deal.


      ($199.95; Apple Store, Thanks to a compelling YouTube video from digital raconteur Adam Lisagor and positive prerelease word of mouth, the Jambox, from headset maker Jawbone, is being touted as the perfect portable speaker for any Bluetooth-enabled music device. Wirelessly broadcasting your beats from your iPad, iPod, iPhone, BlackBerry, or other digital music player to this just-bigger-than-pocket-sized speaker is already extremely cool. But the ability to connect multiple devices at once allows you to switch from an office dance party to a boardroom conference call at the push of a button. Jawbone’s reputation for making the highest quality Bluetooth accessories on the market was another reason for the high anticipation for these speakers.

      HTC 7 Surround
      ($99.99 with three-year contract, $449.99 with no contract; Telus) While Apple and Research in Motion were reaping the rewards of their tight hardware and software integration in the smartphone market, Microsoft watched as manufacturers abandoned its Windows Mobile platform to make Android devices. Stuck trying to peddle a mobile operating system that was years out of date, Microsoft kept promising that something better was coming soon, while watching more people buying smartphones than ever before. The trouble for the software giant was that it wasn’t Microsoft’s phones that people were buying. After a few missteps, like the haphazardly launched and then cancelled Kin, Microsoft is finally back with Windows Phone 7—and it doesn’t suck. While it might not win over the iPhone crowd, Microsoft is aiming for devices featuring this OS to be people’s first smartphones. With a much more inviting user interface than Android and that familiar Windows brand, the HTC 7 Surround smartphone might be a good gift for someone who wants to get more out of their phone than just calls and texts.