December 16, 2008, 9:29 AM — Gadgets, kits, and hacks for the geek who has everything.
"Easy and Fun" Touch-Screen Kit for Netbooks
Give the hard-core techie in your life a tactile jolt with the US$95 "Easy and Fun TouchKit" from Hoda Technologies. This modification adds resistive touch-screen abilities to those ultracompact, ultracheap netbook computers that are all the rage right now. Though no soldering is required, installing the kit does involve some dismantling of the netbook (which most likely will void its warranty); Hoda provides full instructions on how to proceed.
The kit currently claims compatibility with most 8.9- and 10.2-inch netbooks, including the Acer Aspire One, the MSI Wind U100 and various Asus Eee PC models. Support for the Dell Mini 9, the Lenovo Ideapad S10, and other netbooks is reportedly coming soon. Available for purchase online through Fidohub.com or eBay.
Battery-Boosting iPhone 3G Cases
Useful though they are, the Internet and GPS features of the iPhone 3G smart phone suck power like there's no tomorrow. Solution: Use a rechargeable battery booster case such as the Incase Power Slider or the Mophie Juice Pack. Both cost $100, are designed specifically for the iPhone 3G, use a grip-friendly soft-touch coating, and include LEDs that indicate how much charge remains. Mophie says that the Juice Pack can give the 3G up to 6 hours of extra talk time or Internet use--an hour more than Incase claims that the Power Slider delivers.
RED Digital Stills and Motion Camera System
Most geeks are passionate about building their own PCs from components they've hand-picked to meet their needs. Why not use the same DIY mentality to create a custom camera/camcorder? RED Digital Cinema's modular Scarlet and Epic system lets hard-core A/V aficionados start with one of eight "brains"--boxes designed to house the image-processing hardware, the sensor, and the lens mount--and piece together the ideal high-end camcorder or camera from there. According to RED Digital Cinema, the various components available for the system--lenses, "brains," video monitor outputs, lens mounts, batteries, recording modules, and more--can be configured in a stunning 1,048,576 possible combinations.
Swapping in new components instead of buying a new camera may save you money in the long term, but the price of admission for the Scarlet and Epic camera system can be epic: It costs for The lowest-end "brain" costs $2500, and the highest-end "brain" goes for $53,000--and that's before you start adding the other components to your customized system. Still, if we had an extra billion dollars lying around, we'd probably green-light the 3D configuration pictured above.
Of course, if money is no object, you should check out the collection of gift ideas we collected for our slide show "Technology for the Obscenely Wealthy."
DCS Black Shark Helicopter Sim and Saitek X52 Pro Flight System
Digital Combat Systems' latest hard-core simulation, Black Shark Helicopter puts you in control of a single-seat, coaxial-rotor Russian Ka-50 attack helicopter. The $50 download replicates everything: the aerodynamic forces that affect each subelement of the Ka-50's airframe; the detailed physics of the turbo-shaft engine, with each component (the engine inlet, the compressor, and the combustion chamber, for example) modeled independently; and the electrical power generation that feeds the Ka-50's avionics, hydraulics, engines, and auxiliary power. Matt Peckham, who writes PC World's Game On blog says that he has "never seen a sim half as obsessed with modeling the minutia both over and under the hood."
For hyperenthusiasts ready to soak up this sim's stunning graphics--and churn through its 350-page manual--Matt recommends taking off with Saitek's $170 X52 Pro Flight System, a programmable precision stick-and-throttle rig that is fully compatible with Windows Vista.
Optoma Pico Pocket Projector
The prospect of being able to project an image anywhere becomes a reality with Optoma's Pico Pocket Projector, the first shipping product we've tested in this burgeoning new category. The Pico Projector ($400 street), includes cables to hook it up to a TV or mobile device (iPod, PDA, digital camera, or the like), along with a carrying case, an AC adapter, and two lithium ion battery packs (which Optoma says will last 90 minutes each). At its native resolution of 480 by 320, the Pico can project an image measuring 60 inches diagonally from a distance of 8.5 feet.
For more details, read our full review of the Pico Pocket Projector.
Falcon Northwest Mach V: Gaming PC with Intel's Core i7 CPU
For any techie, a new PC is the ultimate gift--but you had better make it a speedster. If you can afford to sink $7395 into the deal, you can pick up the Falcon Northwest Mach V, which packs an array of the latest technologies available: a 3.2-GHz Core i7 965 CPU (overclocked to 3.8 GHz), a whopping 12GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, and two ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics boards. The system prevailed over the competition in almost every graphics test we threw at it, capturing the Best Buy in our gaming PCs category. Nevertheless, both the Xi MTower HAF-SLI and the Hardcore Computer Reactor matched the Mach V's record WorldBench 6 score of 163.
Revolution for DS
The hard-to-find Revolution for DS (aka R4) is an unofficial cartridge used for hacking the Nintendo DS handheld game machine. But the R4 isn't just a hot key to pirate booty. The homebrew community has latched onto this elusive, illicit device, too. Independent game designers are using it to craft their own DS software and are then sharing their work freely with the world. Sudoku puzzles, adventure titles, and even arcade-worthy shooting games have emerged. Heck, folks have created Web browsers, photo viewers, MP3 players, and e-book readers with the Revolution for DS, too.
So is the R4 a legitimate tool or a violation of Nintendo's EULA? In late July 2008, Nintendo and 54 other companies sued the cartridge's maker, demanding that production cease in Japan, on grounds that it violated that country's Unfair Competition Prevention Law. Tom Buscaglia, a lawyer who specializes in video game issues, believes that the R4 will likely end up being blocked in the United States. But the genie is out of the bottle: R4 clones have already begun to appear.
Last year, we recognized the Tenori-on as one of the most innovate products of 2007 but lamented its over-the-top cost. Recently Yamaha reduced the price for the holidays from $1200 to $999, so owning one is now somewhat more feasible. The design remains inspired: You interact with a 16-by-16 grid of LED-illuminated buttons to manipulate and build musical loops. A total of 256 sounds are built in, and an integrated SD Card slot lets you copy original samples from your computer. You can also use the Tenori-on's MIDI-out port to connect with your PC's music software or with your other hardware instruments.
See our video of the Tenori-on in action for more about this device.
Pure Digital Flip MinoHD: High-Definition Minicamcorder
Pure Digital's Flip MinoHD (around $210 street) brings high-definition video recording to your pocket. This tiny 720p-resolution minicamcorder doesn't have enough advanced features to replace a standard HD camcorder, but it will do an admirable job of capturing spontaneous moments and enabling you to post them online. It stores up to 4GB of video (enough for about 1 hour of recording), but since it has no media card slot, you can't add storage.
For more about the Flip MinoHD, read our full review
PlayOn: Stream Netflix, Hulu, and More to Your Game Console and TV
Owners of Microsoft's Xbox 360 have temporary bragging rights because they can stream their Netflix Instant Access queue. Pretty cool, no doubt; but did you know that you can also watch Netflix on your PS3, on an HP MediaSmart TV and at some point in 2009 on a Nintendo Wii? You need to test-drive MediaMall Technologies' PlayOn, currently in beta.
The software camps on your desktop and streams the video over a LAN. Oh, and did we mention that PlayOn can also stream Hulu and YouTube vids? If that doesn't convince you to download the fully functional 14-day trial ($30 for a license), nothing will.
PlayOn does some unique things, but it isn't the only option on the block.
Still looking for a perfect tech gift?