GPSolo Magazine - December 2005

The Technologists’ Guide to Holiday Shopping
(Technogifts for Everyone!)

The official policy of the American Bar Association provides that the ABA does not make recommendations of products. Opinions expressed in this article belong to the authors and do not represent an ABA endorsement. That said, we will give you our take on some of the best technology on the market during the holiday season. In the following pages, you will find our recommendations for gifts costing as little as $15 and gifts costing several hundred dollars. If you don’t find the killer gift you are looking for, you just aren’t looking hard enough!

Hail to the iPod

The world has more portable music devices than you can imagine. CD players, tape players, hard disk musical devices, flash memory music devices, and MP3 players, all coming from dozens of manufacturers. The simple fact of the matter, however, is that Apple’s iPod has ensconced itself as the number-one music device on the planet. It may now have reached the point that you cannot open a catalog for a company that sells electronics (and many from companies not known for the sale of electronics) without finding ads for iPods or iPod accessories. By way of example, the most recent Sharper Image catalog began with ten pages of iPod accessories.

Now fully compatible with computers on both the Mac and Windows operating systems, Apple’s iPod offers something for almost everyone on your list. Apple has continually expanded and refreshed its iPod line, making iPods smaller and sleeker, less expensive and more powerful (i.e., with larger storage capacities and longer-lasting battery charges). The current lineup ranges from the Shuffle ($99 for 512 MB or $129 for 1 GB) to the nano ($199 for 2 GB or $249 for 4 GB) to the full-sized iPod ($299 for 30 GB or $399 for 60 GB; see for the most recent information on pricing and features of the entire iPod line). The new nano is one of the hottest tickets in town. Everybody seems to want one, even if they already have another iPod. The nano proves the old saying that electronics devices can never be too thin. The nano fits into almost any pocket and can produce brilliant audio.

Full-sized iPods have 2” color displays and will show your photos as well as play your music. The 60 GB full-sized iPod weighs only 6.4 ounces. The new nano weighs only 1.5 ounces and has a 1.25” color display; the Shuffle has no display. Each gigabyte will hold approximately 250 songs. iPods with color displays will store and show pictures.

As this article went to press, Apple announced two new full-sized iPods. Both are lighter and thinner—by about 30 percent—than the last full-sized iPods. The new iPods have all the features of the older iPods, plus the ability to play videos. The new iPods come in a 30 GB version ($300) and a 60 GB version ($400). Each size comes in black or white and has a 2.5” 260,000-color display with a 320 x 240 pixel resolution. The larger screen should make all your still pictures and videos a bit easier to see. We have seen reports of a 14-hour battery life for the smaller version and a 20-hour battery life for the larger version. We have not had the chance to try the new version yet; but you will want to check it out at your local Apple Store. Apple also released iTunes version 6 to take advantage of the video capabilities of the new iPod and will sell videos online, just as they now sell music online.

All of the iPods play music stored in MP3 and AAC formats. They will also play audio books, and you can use any of the iPod family of devices to store data other than your music for backup or easy transfer to another computer. All the new iPods except for the Shuffle have a “dock” connector that enables them to share a large collection of accessories.

Speaking of accessories, likely no other piece of technology (except possibly the automobile) has generated more accessories than the iPod. Available accessories include myriad external speakers, upgraded headphones/earphones, a wide variety of cases, and any number of connectors to make the iPod the heart of a music system for your house, office, or car.

Earphones. Upgraded earphones make an excellent gift and come in a wide range of prices. Apple’s $39 in-ear headphones work much better than those that come with the iPod. Shure’s ( E series sound-isolating sets all cost more, but each performed significantly better. Shure sells its E2c for $99, the E3c for $199, the E4c for $299, and the E5c for $499. Shure designed the E4c for use with digital technology, giving it an edge over the others for use with an iPod. The E series protects the sound you want to hear by blocking out most of the ambient noise, preventing it from interfering with your enjoyment of the music. Etymotic Research ( also offers exceptional earphones in its ER series. Its new ER4 costs $330 and represents the best choice from its line for use with an iPod. It also blocks out a great deal of ambient noise.

Ultimate Ears’ ( $249 5 Pro provides professional-grade audio through special engineering that places low- and high-frequency speakers in each ear for better fidelity. The ear bud design securely seals the ear against external noise. The ear buds’ shape and snug fit yield wearing comfort and noise isolation essential for use in noisy environments.

You might also want to consider a noise-canceling system. The Sony ( MDR-NC11 ($99) and the Bose ( QuietComfort 2 ($299) top the ever-growing list of noise-cancellation systems. Both reduce the level of ambient sound, such as airplane noise.

Speakers. Those wanting to share music with others or listen to it without earphones will enjoy receiving a set of external speakers designed for the iPod. You have several excellent choices in this category. The most expensive of the lot, the Bose SoundDock costs $299 and provides a deep, rich, full sound. Altec Lansing ( offers several speaker sets for the iPod. Its inMotion portable boom box series offers exceptional choices, including the inMotion iM4 ($99.95) and the new inMotion iM7 ($249.95). JBL’s $159.95 On Stage ( makes another excellent choice.

Tivoli Audio. Tivoli Audio ( produces a line of exceptional quality radios and very good speakers. Most include AM and FM bands. The radios are worth looking at as gifts all by themselves. As they accept auxiliary input, they can also serve as external speakers for your iPod. If you want a radio tuner with your iPod and don’t mind a single-speaker system, the Tivoli iPal offers a great combination ($149.99). A brand new offering from Tivoli, the iSongBook, upgrades its single-speaker SongBook ($159.99), which, like the iPal, contains an AM/FM radio and can serve as an auxiliary speaker for other devices, such as the iPod. The iSongBook adds an iPod dock and a second, separable speaker to the SongBook and sells for $329.99.

Cell Phones and Accessories

Features to look for in top-of-the-line phones include Bluetooth capability (short-range wireless transmission for communication with computers or accessories such as earphones and separate speakerphones); built-in speakerphones; color displays; and the ability to access the Internet. Many phones also come with built-in cameras. Among the younger set, the ability to send and receive text messages has developed increasing significance. Older users have started to find that a useful feature as well. Some phones are capable of working not only in the United States but also in certain foreign countries. If your recipient travels internationally, that may become a significant feature. Most of the modern cell phones also have some limited contact and calendar capabilities as well. Some phones have sophisticated PDA (personal data assistant) functions.

The Motorola Razr has breathed new life into Motorola’s ( cell phone division and become one of the hottest phones on the market. Available in silver and now in black and hot pink, the Razr’s slim profile makes it easy to carry in a pocket or a purse. Its features include a functional camera, a decent color screen, Bluetooth connectivity, and Internet capability. Until recently you could only get the phone through a Cingular dealer. Recently, that exclusive arrangement terminated, and other providers are now making the phone available. Most providers offer significant discounts in connection with new accounts or extensions of existing accounts. You can find the phones for as little as $199.99.

Converged devices. If you want a combination telephone/PDA (often called a converged device), you have a growing number of choices. Among the converged devices, the Treo 650 (; $299) has the reputation for being the best available unit. It comes with full Palm OS PDA capability, a camera, the ability to play music, Bluetooth connectivity, Internet connectivity, and the ability to receive and send e-mail. It also has a built-in speakerphone and a thumb board. As if that did not fully frost the cake, the telephone works pretty well, too. Historically, the Treo 650 worked only with the Palm OS, but Microsoft and Palm recently announced a new partnership to create a Treo 650 that runs on the Pocket PC system for Windows. If you want a phone without a camera that does a great job on e-mail, take a look at the BlackBerry 7100 series (; $299.99). The BlackBerry 7100, made by RIM (, comes in several configurations for the major cell providers. It also comes with a sharp display, color, Bluetooth, a built-in speakerphone, and basic PDA functions (although with a proprietary system).

Like the Treo 650, the BlackBerry 7100 comes with a built-in thumb board. The Treo’s thumb board follows the traditional typewriter keyboard layout. The 7100’s thumb board, however, brings a new technology to cell phones. The thumb board on the 7100 has half the keys of a standard thumb board (two letters per key) and software that lets the phone figure out which letter you meant by the context in which it arises. I initially approached that software with some incredulity, but I have found that it generally picks the correct letter (although sometimes you have to type a couple characters past it for the phone to determine the correct character).

For those of you who are Pocket PC fans, the HP iPAQ h6325 Pocket PC-phone may be just the ticket (; $749). This phone comes with open technology from Cingular wireless—you no longer have to deal with a phone that won’t accept your SIM card from the very start. The three-in-one iPAQ is a Pocket PC filled with all the software needed to run an office on the go; it’s a phone; and it has a built-in camera. The iPAQ h6325 is also the first and smallest handheld that can boast about its integrated three-way wireless (GSM, GPRS, WLAN, and Bluetooth). The worldwide phone capabilities are super, and the screen boasts a 3.5” TFT display for outstanding visual quality no matter if you are inside the house or out in the glaring sun. As far as accessories go, you have many choices available, from cases to travel chargers, to automobile chargers, to a variety of in-car portable speakerphones and headsets of the wired and wireless varieties.

Bluetooth wireless headsets. Bluetooth headsets make great gifts. The price range for such devices is generally around $70 to $150. We evaluated a number of units with a variety of phones and found the Jabra devices generally come in first. We also liked the Motorola HS850, but not as much as the Jabra devices. A relatively new offering from Tekkion just arrived and looks very promising as well.

The Jabra BT800 (; $99.99) features unique Digital Signal Processing (DSP); whatever the environment, you are ensured of optimum audio quality. DSP’s automatic volume control compensates for noisy surroundings by increasing the listening level accordingly, and noise cancellation technology means that the incoming caller can hear you more clearly. The BT800’s call vibrate/ring tone function enables you to select your favorite ring tone from the headset itself. Or if you prefer, simply set the BT800 to “vibrate only,” so you silently know when a call is coming through. It comes with its own built-in rechargeable lithium polymer battery, which also can be charged directly from your PC via the supplied USB cable.

Motorola’s HS850 sells for $99.99 and provides up to eight hours of talk time, using Bluetooth 1.2. The microphone folds up to turn the unit off and make it a more compact package to carry around. If you still have a phone that does not support Bluetooth, a $149.99 version includes an adaptor.

GN Netcom ( offers the 2.4 GHz GN Netcom 6210 ($176), which works with your cell phone and comes with a kit to convert your office phone to Bluetooth; you then can use the same headset for both your office and cell phones. This unit works so cleverly that it can pair to both your office and cell phones at the same time and allow you to answer one or the other, whichever happens to ring.

Hands-free car kits. More and more states have barred the use of cell phones while driving, unless you use them with a hands-free device. Some hands-free devices require that you wire them into the vehicle in a permanent installation. Other hands-free devices simply plug into the cigarette lighter, and you can easily move them from one car to another. Two of the best of the portable style that we have encountered come from Jabra and Parrot.

Jabra’s SP500 provides clear, hands-free conversation while driving. It automatically adjusts speaker volume to account for background noise. The SP500 employs Bluetooth 1.2 for faster connection and improved audio quality and DSP technology (for more on DSP, see the discussion of the Jabra BT800 above). The SP500 costs $99.99. In addition to in-car use, you can also use the SP500 as a speakerphone.

Parrot’s Easydrive ( costs $99. Plug it into the cigarette lighter and start the engine. The kit is ready to go without any talk-time problems or needing any time to recharge. A paired Bluetooth mobile phone automatically connects to the Easydrive. The Easydrive speaker optimizes signal amplification and the acoustic output and provides good sound reproduction, enabling drivers to clearly hear the caller; the built-in microphone allows the driver to talk normally. Thanks to the voice recognition feature, users say a name and the Easydrive automatically dials the number without any need to take the mobile phone out of their bag or pocket, which helps to cut down on accidents and fines. The Plug & Drive system lets you change from one vehicle to another. Thanks to its small size, you can easily slip the Easydrive into your pocket or bag. The Parrot Easydrive works with all Bluetooth mobile phones.

GPS Navigation Systems

For those of you lucky enough to get a new HP iPAQ h6325 phone/PDA/camera combination, it’s time for you to pop for your own gift idea, and that’s the HP iPAQ Navigation System ($329.99). With this handy little device, you have your own GPS (Global Positioning System) autopilot packed inside your PDA; you’ll never get lost anywhere in the world. It works with many different versions of the iPAQ, so if you know people who have an older iPAQ, you can still get it for them as a gift. The system comes complete with a Bluetooth-enabled wireless GPS receiver, software, and maps of the United States and Canada. The maps include virtually every road and millions of points of interest, such as restaurants, hotels, and gas stations. The portability of the HP iPAQ navigation system allows you to take it from one car to another, and the rechargeable lithium ion battery means there’s no need for messy cables or external power. The HP iPAQ Navigation System is ideal for the business traveler or for family road trips.

For those of you who do not have an iPAQ but want a portable GPS system that works with your PDA, check out the $299.95 TomTom Navigator 5 GPS System ( The GPS receiver uses Bluetooth technology to eliminate the need for connecting cables, and a new, high-performance GPS antenna to ensure the best possible reception wherever you go. The candy-bar-sized GPS receiver weighs in at only 2.4 ounces and receives on 20 channels. The GPS receiver has a high-capacity battery that lasts up to five hours on a single charge. The Navigator 5 will work with a variety of PDAs and converged telephones on both the Pocket PC and the Palm OS platforms, including many models of Dell’s Axim, HP’s iPAQ, T-Mobile’s MDA III and MD Compact, and Palm’s Treo 650, Zire 72, and Tungsten E, T3, and T5.

Printing on the Go

We found two mobile Bluetooth printers that impressed us. The HP DeskJet 460wbt Mobile Printer ($349) with Bluetooth can also connect via Wi-Fi. It prints up to 17 ppm (pages per minute) in black-and-white and up to 16 ppm in color. The machine uses HP thermal inkjet technology and gives you bright, crisp, clean printed pages. At your office, simply slide the Wi-Fi profile switch to one of three preset Wi-Fi settings to wirelessly print reports. For a change of scenery, use the Wi-Fi profile switch to connect instantly to the Wi-Fi hotspot at your favorite café to print and review your documents. You also can print from Bluetooth-enabled devices such as notebooks, tablet PCs, digital cameras, select mobile phones, and PDAs. Print photos directly from digital cameras and supported Compact-Flash, Secure Digital, and Multimedia Card memory cards.

The second and probably the smallest profile mobile Bluetooth printer is the Pentax PocketJet 3 Plus with Bluetooth (; $449). At barely over ten inches long and one pound in weight, the PocketJet 3 Plus fits easily into your briefcase or computer bag. It prints up to 3 ppm using advanced direct thermal printing technology that eliminates the need for ink, toner, or ribbons. The printer works with most handheld PCs and laptops/desktops running Windows, Symbian/EPOC, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, PalmOS, Linux, and Mac OS X.

Portable Scanners

The Pentax DSmobile USB is a portable color scanner. This sheetfed scanner features a USB power/data interface, which avoids the need for a battery or external power adapter. It provides high-speed, quality imaging while weighing less than 12 ounces and measuring just 11 inches. It can scan documents from business-card-size to 8.5 x 14 inches. The cost: $99.

Card scanners. IRIS ( has come up with an excellent solution for that ever-growing collection of business cards that never seems to stay organized. For a very reasonable $169.99 ($149.99 for the Mac version) you can purchase its Business Card Reader II package, which includes a small, portable USB scanner and their CardIRIS software. Install the software and connect the scanner to your computer, then feed the card collection through. The scanner creates a digital image of the card, which the software then reads and exports to one of several major personal information programs, including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, Palm, and ACT on the Windows platform and Entourage, Address Book, Now Contact, Outlook Express, and AppleWorks 6 on the Mac platform. IRIS has developed a reputation for outstanding optical character recognition software, and the program generally has little trouble interpreting a card’s image. It sure beats manually retyping the information or using your card collection to find contact information.

Pen scanners. If, from time to time, you (or your recipient) need to scan information into a computer from a form that does not readily fit into your scanner, take a look at the IRISPen executive ($199.99). You simply install the software (compatible with the Mac or Windows platforms), connect the pen to your computer through an available USB port, and move the pen over whatever you need to scan. The pen translates the image to word processable form for you. It reads up to 1,000 characters per second.

Planon System Solutions’ DocuPen ( gets the nod as the smallest full-page portable scanner we could find—it’s an 8” x 1/2” stick that you roll length-wise down the page. A one-page scan takes about four seconds. The DocuPen can store up to 100 pages of scanned text. Viewing the digitized pages requires a simple hookup to any Windows PC equipped with a USB port. The Docupen costs $159.99, and a new version with rechargeable batteries (the R-700) costs $199.99.

Flash Memory Devices

Flash memory drives have replaced floppy disks and zip disks as the method of choice for storing and transporting relatively small amounts of data. As the capacity of flash drives expands, they assume more significant roles in our electronic lives. These drives (often called “thumb drives,” “jump drives,” “pocket drives,” and a variety of other names) come in sizes ranging from 8 MB to 4 GB. Prices have dropped tremendously on these devices within the last few months, and I have seen 2 GB drives selling for $125, 1 GB drives for $46, and 512 MB drives available for $19 (all prices were from online vendors). Recently 4 GB drives have shown up online, and the price on those has already started to drop. They are generally still in the range of $300 to $400, but I have recently seen a 4 GB drive advertised for only $280 (see Recent announcements of 8 GB drives make it clear that more is yet to come.

Well-known and reliable manufacturers of flash drives include Lexar (, SanDisk (, Sony, and Kingston ( Opt for USB 2.0 connectivity, as it works much faster than the older USB 1.1 interface. These drives are small, often colorfully and fancifully designed, and can be worn around the neck with (often included) straps. Think of it as geek jewelry with a useful purpose—depending on the size you get, it will hold the same amount of information as one to several boxes of floppy disks or even zip disks. Flash memory cards for cameras, video cameras, and other devices also have started to show up in multiple-gigabyte forms. For example, I recently saw a 4 GB Ultra Performance 89X Compact Flash card advertised online for $229.

Carrying Cases

The more technological wonders you get, the more you need something to hold them all. Initially, you may want to carry your technology in your pocket. Much of today’s technology is small enough that you can actually do this . . . until you run out of pockets. If you still want to carry your technology that way, visit for a good selection of technology-enabled clothing. They have everything from jackets to vests to pants and shorts for men and women. All of the clothing they sell comes complete with a collection of large and specially configured pockets to hold PDAs, MP3 players, cell phones, digital cameras, and a variety of other technological accoutrements (you might even find a pocket for a wallet and keys). Recently they brought out a tech sports coat for men, as well as a tie. The tie has a small pocket large enough to carry credit cards, money, or even one of the new iPod Nanos. Jackets and vests also have channels for earphone wires.

The people at RoadWired ( have created a collection of carrying cases and bags for your technology (and other gear) that are so cleverly designed that they qualify as a technology gadget in their own right. The best of their collection has achieved its own measure of fame. The Pod bag ($49.95) has received rave reviews from numerous sources. I packed one with a Treo 650, an iPod, a digital camera, extra batteries, extra memory cards, and a map and still had room for more. The success of the Pod induced RoadWired to “super-size” it and offer the larger version as Podzilla ($69.95). RoadWired makes both bags out of 1050 denier ballistic nylon and lines the interior with nylon pack cloth. Both of the water-repellant bags have seat-belt-grade webbing, quick-release closure fasteners, and self-repairing zippers.

RoadWired’s Skooba Satchel ($99.95) looks deceptively slim. This bag will hold most 17” screen laptops and a good quantity of gadgets, files, and accessories. The Skooba Satchel uses the “Air Square” system that protects your laptop with shock-absorbing, air-filled pouches. Surrounding the laptop compartment are more than a dozen pockets for cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras, iPods, keys, and your other gear. Skooba bags also incorporate “Rivet Ready” attachment points onto which you can mount the optional Rivet micro-clip system. The bag weighs only 44 ounces. Check out the RoadWired website for a variety of other bags, computer sleeves, and computer cases.

Another excellent source for unusual but high-quality bags, WaterField Designs ( offers well-designed and reasonably priced computer sleeves, camera bags, iPod cases, and a variety of other bags. I am particularly partial to its Cozmo bag. Like many of the bags, the Cozmo comes in three sizes, and I have used it to carry everything from a laptop computer and files to soccer gear and a change of clothes. The Cozmo bags list for $139 to $149 (depending on the size). The company has a service-oriented mentality and will even custom-make computer sleeves to the size you need. They consider the Cargo bag as their signature bag. Like the Cozmo, it comes in three different sizes. You can also choose either an aircraft or a paragliding buckle, depending upon your tastes. The Cargo holds a computer and a considerable amount of support gear. Costs range from $169 to $249, depending upon size and buckle choice.

If you want a tough case for a cell phone, PDA, GPS device, or other portable gadget, take a look at the Nite Ize website ( Nite Ize makes well-designed, reasonably priced, strong, rugged cases for your portable electronics gear and other essentials. Most of the cases from Nite Ize cost between $15 and $20.

If you want a good wheeled computer bag/briefcase for a traveling executive, HP and Targus ( have teamed to create the stylish new Evolution HP700 Roller ($129.99). The workstation in a briefcase comes with pen loops, business card holder, removable CD/DVD sleeve, three removable accessory pouches, key fob, PDA holder, drive pockets, mesh pockets, a padded portable sleeve in the notebook section, a separate file section, and even a water bottle holder. The case has a hidden locking trolley handle, in-line skate wheels, and a retractable airline ticket and passport holder, which lets you keep those documents accessible without the need to open your case. The case accommodates notebooks with up to 15.4” screens and uses the “SafePORT Air Cushion System” to protect your notebook.

The Wenger Patriot Case ($139.99) is one of the best-designed cases we encountered. A very large, high-capacity case, this bag can take you to a trial or on an overnight trip. The large back section was designed to accommodate clothing, but it works very nicely to hold files, documents, a projector, or a second computer. The bag comes with a self-contained computer bag that fits inside a section of the case and removes to allow you to carry your computer, a few accessories, and some documents separately either for convenience or to enable you to cram more documents and gear into the main wheeled bag. The case will accommodate most computers up to 15.4”. It also has a section for files and a section for smaller items. This case holds a tremendous amount of gear but makes it easy on your back by coming with a telescoping handle and in-line skate wheels that roll smoothly on most surfaces. Wenger makes a similar case that we found at Costco with the Wenger logo on it, but no name to identify it. The Costco version has a few cosmetic differences, but otherwise looks and works like the Patriot. The best news: Costco sells the bag for $70, making it one of the best values we found.

Label Makers

Labels make our life easier. Label makers make great gifts. We really like labeling things—it makes it easier to find them, and it helps lost things find their way home. We also use labels for mailing because it saves time in our offices. It’s much easier and faster to print a single self-adhesive label than to send a page of labels through a regular printer. In the field of label makers, we have found a few we like.

The Seiko Smart Label Printer 430 ( costs $189.99 and allows the mixing and matching of fonts, graphics, and bar codes all on a single label. You also can easily prepare customized formats complete with your own law office logo and a bar code approved by the U.S. Post Office. The software package includes SmartCapture (compatible with Windows or Mac OS X), which allows the user to instantly capture an address from Word, Act!, Goldmine, Palm Desktop, and Outlook all with a single mouse click, thereby avoiding the time-consuming retyping of addresses. The unit prints each label in about three seconds, and it makes a small and neat desktop profile. Seiko also makes less-expensive versions, as well. You can get the 420 for $129.99 and the 410 for $99.99. The 420 has fewer features than the 430, and the 410 fewer yet. The 410 and 420 also print much slower than the 430 (approximately eight seconds per label).

Dymo’s LabelWriter 400 Turbo ( sells for $139.99 and can print more than 40 different label styles. It is compatible with Mac OS X and Windows platforms and comes with add-ins that let you print directly from Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Outlook, QuickBooks, ACT!, and other programs with the click of a button. It prints labels up to 2 1/4” wide (56 mm) at an amazing one second per label, up to 55 labels per minute. Dymo also has other styles of labelers, some of which will even hold two different types of label stock.

Happy shopping!!


Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is the special issue editor of GPSolo’s Technology & Practice Guide and editor-in-chief of the Technology eReport . He also teaches business law in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the Business School of the University of Phoenix. He can be reached at Alan Pearlman is a practicing attorney in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. He is the author of the nationally syndicated column The Electronic Lawyer and a frequent speaker at national legal technology seminars. He can be reached via e-mail at or on the web at



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