Christmas Post 2011

Christmas wreathHi everyone!

No doubt, as the TV ads shout, you will be passing headlong through an intense selling period. If you are in North America, this will start just after you have had that big turkey and pumpkin-pie feast on Thanksgiving Day. But this is the time to make wise decisions about what technology to buy as Christmas gifts through this season.

I am writing this piece so that the gift that you buy doesn’t end up as a real turkey in the face of the recipient or that you don’t shoot yourselves in the foot when you buy those bargains during the sales.

Network media and Internet-enabled “smart TV”

This year, Internet-based TV is being promoted by the main TV brands. This will typically be offered in the form of newer LCD TV sets being equipped with this feature, but you can enable your older or cheaper TV with this technology by purchasing one of the new Blu-Ray players, Blu-Ray home-theatre systems or network media adaptors from the likes of Samsung and Sony. These devices do have that same “smart-TV” functionality but are in the form of a video peripheral that connects to your existing TV.

Sony BDP-S380 Network-enabled Blu-Ray playerWhether you go for a “smart TV” or a video peripheral to benefit from the interactive TV trend, make sure the TV is DLNA-compliant and resist the temptation to use Wi-Fi as the network connection method for these sets. Instead, purchase a HomePlug AV kit to link your network-enabled video equipment to the home network. There are some of these kits which have one of the HomePlug-Ethernet bridge units equipped with a four-port Ethernet switch, which could benefit those households who have more than one network-enabled AV device in the equipment rack and makes the network setup more future-proof. An example of this kind of equipment is the WD Livewire HomePlug AV kit which came with 2 HomePlug AV 4-port Ethernet switches at each end which I have reviewed. Infact I had reviewed the Sony BDP-S380 Blu-Ray player that works well as an Internet-TV enabler for that existing TV.

As for reviews, I have covered some network-enabled media equipment other than tabletop and portable Internet radios. I had reviewed the Sony CMT-MX750Ni micro music system which could work as a secondary music system as well as a Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver which is the heart of a good-quality 3-piece hi-fi setup. These units both can connect to the home network and Internet, bringing the fun of Internet radio and the music collection on your network-attached storage to something more substantial than a table radio.

The “family house”

You may be having your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas dinner at your family’s main “family house”, yet you might find that the Internet setup there may not match a current reality. When I talk of the “family house” here, I am talking of the house which most likely will be lived in by your parents but is the place where the whole family gathers for family celebrations, and where some members do stay on a temporary basis.

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

This is more so if your parents are cottoning on to the Internet or it is known around your family that there are regular houseguests staying or living at this house who make regular use of the Internet.

Here, I have written an article on whether to provide full broadband Internet and a home network in this “family house” and, if so, it could be a valid gift idea when it comes to what to give your parents or grandparents. I had compared the value of one of those 3G wireless-broadband setups serving one computer versus a wireline full-broadband service that is part of an integrated telecommunications / pay-TV deal.

Other gift ideas

I have written a buyer’s guide article on what you can buy to improve the sound quality of your computer equipment. Here, I have mentioned about the speaker-system opportunities, the use of regular hi-fi equipment as well as add-on sound modules for laptops. As well I covered the issue of making sure you have good connectivity options for those iPod speaker docks so you can gain more value out of them over the years.

I have also reviewed a good-quality Cooler Master laptop cooling pad which would come in hand with older laptops that tend to run hot easily. As well, it is worth paying attention to the quality of other accessories you buy as gifts for laptop users. For luggage, pay attention to how well the piece is built such as the stitching or the fasteners. Cheap poor-quality zippers can definitely cost in the long run, as I have experienced.

Those old-style tray tables are very relevant in the connected age, especially as a way to keep that laptop or tablet off the couch or bed. Why is this so because if you allow a laptop to exist on those pillows, cushions or doonas (Continental quilts / duvets / comforters), this can cause the laptop to overheat. It also avoids the risk of one sitting on and damaging that iPad that was left on the sofa.

As I have said before, if you can’t afford or feel worried about purchasing that big-ticket gift yourself, it could be worth pooling resources together to purchase that gift. This can avoid the need to resort to cheap poor-quality items as gifts.

I just wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year,

Simon Mackay

Editor –

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