Those words may have been true 20-odd years ago, but not any more. Today's digital nomads prefer things -- like MP3 players, mobile phones, and notebook computers -- to be small. The smaller the better. If you have a geek on the go on your holiday shopping list, there are way too many options for gifts. This TechTip offers a few ideas.
Carry the Web with You
At the height of the dot-com bubble, a number of companies were betting on Web tablets -- portable computers that connected you to the Internet. Unfortunately, these devices didn't pan out at the time. But mobile phone maker Nokia has brought the Web tablet concept back with the N800. Somewhat bigger than a mobile phone, this gadget literally puts the Web in the palm of your hand.
With the N800, you can browse the Web, send and receive email, view streaming and multimedia content, send instant and video messages using Google Talk, and even make calls using Skype. To do all of this, you need access to a wireless network -- for better or for worse, you can't just use your mobile phone's data plan. On top of that, Nokia will be introducing a newer model tablet -- the N810 -- that's supposed to be shipping sometime in December. The N810 has all the features of the N800, and a few more. These include more memory, a slide-out keyboard, and more applications. If your geek can wait a bit, you might want to get that one for him or her. Otherwise, the N800 isn't too bad an alternative.
While a number of smart phones and MP3 players can play video, their screens are a bit small. That, obviously, can make watching a video a bit hard on the eyes. A dedicated portable video player, on the other hand, offers better resolution and a larger screen, while at the same time keeping the small form factor.
SanDisk's Sansa View player is a tight little package that the manufacturer claims can play up to seven hours of video in the popular like MP4 and WMV formats. You can even use the Sansa View to watch videos downloaded from some popular video services, including Amazon Unboxed and TivoToGo. All that in a package that weighs just under three ounces.
Archos is renowned for its portable video players. Some of the company's devices have the largest, clearest screens on the market and can hold 80 GB or more of video -- that 's up to 200 movies. The 705 Wireless has a 7" screen and can not only play movies, but record TV shows and access video sites like YouTube or Daily Motion. Slightly smaller is the 605 Wireless, which packs a 4.3" screen and slightly less storage capacity than the 705. But the 605 is small; just over half an inch thick and weighs about a quarter of a pound.
While the book isn't dead, books can be bulky to carry around. That goes not only for technical books, but also the latest bestsellers. So, why not give a gift that lets your geek read as many books as he or she wants, and which takes up the space of a single book. That's right, an eBook reader.
One of the more popular readers is the Reader Digital Book from Sony. It can hold up to 260 books, is about the size and weight of a paperback. It can display books that have been converted to PDF. In addition to the thousands of titles that are available from Sony, you can also transfer your own PDFs to the Reader.
Released in mid-November, Kindle from Amazon.com is a wireless eBook reader. You don't have to connect it to your computer to download books -- you can buy them right from Amazon.com using the same kind of connection that your mobile phone uses. Like the Reader Digital Book, Kindle is small and light. It can hold up to 200 books; over 88,000 are available from Amazon.com, along with access to dozens of American and international newspapers and hundreds of blogs.
Most mobile devices have enough memory and storage capacity to carry out basic tasks. But if the geek on your list needs (or just plain wants) to do more with their mobile devices, consider getting them one or more Secure Digital (SD) cards. An SD card is literally a small, wafer-thin square that fits in the palm of your hand -- with space to spare. But that little square can greatly increase the memory and storage capacity of a mobile device. Two popular sizes of SD card are 1 GB and 2 GB. On a mobile device, that's a lot of leverage. Or, at least, music or video ... Best of all, an SD card can be used with more than one device.
Of course, your geek will need something to carry all those portable devices. Or even the ones that they already have. A good carrying case makes a great gift. While most carrying cases are fine, they can be a bit bulky and lack a bit of style. Why not get the geek on your Christmas list a carrying case that's a little out of the ordinary.
Laptop and notebook cases can be functional, but can also make a statement. A favorite of mine is the Blurr BTR Note Bag. It's light, has a small profile, and can comfortably hold a 15" laptop and its AC adapter. The BTR can also hold a couple of paper notebooks, a wallet, keys, and some pens. I've been using mine for a couple of years now and it still attracts attention. On top of that, the bag does a great job of holding my notebook computer!
Another great notebook case is The Buzz. The Buzz is a padded slingpack that can hold up to a 15" laptop (or a 15.4" MacBook). Like the Blurr BTR, The Buzz also has room for a couple of books and comes with both a pocket for a cellphone or an MP3 player, and a pouch for a water bottle. It's also made of tough nylon, so you don't have to worry about it ripping.
But let's not forget cases for other gadgets like cellphones, PDAs, or MP3 players. If the geek on your gift list is active, then you'll want to get him or her something from Cell Safe. The company makes cellphone and PDA cases that are shock proof, waterproof, and just plain rugged. These cases might not be the prettiest accessories in the world, but they do keep mobile gadgets safe and dry.
Of course, if your geek fancies himself or herself a digital gunslinger, then think about the e-Holster. It's literally a shoulder holster that makes carrying mobile gadgets safe and secure. The cases are made of either leather or nylon, and give your geek quick access to their devices.
Finding a gift for your mobile fanatic isn't hard. And while some devices and accessories can be expensive, you can find some great deals on the Web. But the right gift under the tree will definitely put a smile on the face of your geek on the go on Christmas Day.