Tag Archives: Sony

Christmas & Holiday Gift Ideas for the Photographer | 2014 Edition

Looking at what to get the photographer in your life for Christmas?  Here are some ideas that are sure to make every photographers Christmas season.

Well a camera is a pretty big gift but there are some spectacular options from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax in 2014.  Take a look below.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera with 18-135mm IS STM Lens

Canon 7D Mark II with 18 135 lens and battery grip

It was the announcement that everyone was waiting for this fall and it is now here.  The Canon 7D Mark II features:

  • 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
  • High spped continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
  • 65-point all cross-type AF system
  • Stunning Full HD video with Custom Movie Servo AF (speed and sensitivity)
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF enables you to shoot video like a camcorder
People I know who have one (sports and wildlife shooters) have all said that it is everything that Canon said it would be already and feel that once they master the just shipped camera, it would be even better. 

Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera

While Canon has their hit camera with the Canon 7D Mark II, Nikon has their own hit with the Nikon D750 which is the successor to the famous D700. 

Nikon D750

Here are the Nikon D750’s highlights.

  • Full frame 24.3 megapixel CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor
  • Full HD 60/50/30/25/24p video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Shoot up to 6.5 fps at full resolution
  • Pro Video feature set including: Simultaneously record uncompressed and compressed, Manually control ISO, shutter speed and aperture while recording – even use Power Aperture control for smooth iris transitions and Auto ISO for smooth exposure transitions.
  • Compact, lightweight and slim unibody (monocoque) body design with tilting Vari-angle LCD display

 The big news is that while its price is closer to the Nikon D610, its feature set is closer to the Nikon D810.

Pentax K-3 w/ 18-135mm lens

Pentax K-3

I have long been a long time Pentax user and for me, this camera personifies everything that is right with Pentax right now.  

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, selectable on/off of anti-aliasing filter
  • 8.3 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 27-point AF system with 25 cross sensors and 3 low-light AF sensors
  • ISO 80-51,200
  • 1080 60p/50p/30p/24p HD video (H.264)
It has remarkable build quality that features a weather sealed camera and an increasing number of weather resistant lens that allow you to shoot in any weather conditions.  If you are wondering about Pentax DSLR lens, check out my Pentax lens guide that I put together this summer.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Compact System Camera

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Compact Camera

  • 6 MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor with 3-axis sensor shift image stabilization
  • Up to 8 FPS continuous shooting
  • ISO 200-25600
  • 1080/30 fps HD video (H.264/Motion JPEG)
  • Raw and Raw + JPEG shooting

If you are considering making the switch to a mirrorless camera, then you really need to look at the Olympus OM-D lineup, especially the E-M1 and the lower priced E-M10.  Both using the Micro Four/Thirds mount and have in body stabilization.  The combination means there are countless lens from Olympus, Panasonic, and most recently Sigma that can all be used.

Sony RX-100, RX-100 II & RX-100 III

Sony RX-100 II

Sony has three current Sony RX-100 cameras, all at different price points.  All of them are 20 megapixels, compact, and great in low light.  The reason you want one is that they are a remarkable camera to have you at all time and are being used by photographers like Bryan Scott (publishes Winnipeg Love Hate) and CTV’s Tom Podolec who have captured amazing images with the RX-100’s over the last year or so.  The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have raved about the camera.  Basically if you don’t Sony’s RX-100, you didn’t want a compact camera in the first place.

Thinsulate Freehands Photography Gloves

So you get the perfect lens or camera on Christmas morning and then realize that it is -22 degrees Celsius out where you want to try it out.  Wonderful.  Now you have to wait till March.  

There is another solution and that is the Thinsulate Freehands photography gloves.  Keeps your hands warm while giving them the freedom to take the photos you want.

Ricoh Theta

The Theta from Ricoh is a compact and lightweight (3.3 oz.) camera that has a lens on both the front and back, allowing you to take full 360 Degree spherical panoramic images in with one shot and 3 minute videos. The device is synchronized with smartphones, where images can be immediately transmitted via Wi-Fi and viewed with a dedicated free app. The app also allows images to be pinched, swiped or rotated to edit size, shape and composition. Images uploaded to theta360.com can be shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as Microsoft Corporation’s Photosynth. IOS and Android free apps for viewing and capturing images.

Black Rapid Camera Strap

Black Rapid Camera Strap

There is a better way to carry your camera and it is a Black Rapid strap

 Vintage Multi-Color Neck Strap

Vintage Multi Coloured Neck Strap

A great stocking stuffer for the photographer on your list.  It features an old school colourful design which is a lot more exciting then the strap that came with your camera.

Wireless Remote

No matter how good your camera is, it’s the actual shot that matters–and sometimes that means needing to time things just right, especially if the photographer also plans to be in the shot. While most cameras have a built-in timer, using the wireless remote lets you pick your moment–its 16-foot wireless range gives you the flexibility to snap the shutter right when you need it, even if you’re not behind the camera.

Olympus 50mm Lens

Often the most affordable lens in any camera lens lineup, it is a great gift for anyone still using their kit lens.
 
12 Inch Digital Photo Frame
 
This frame features a hi-res SVGA screen with LED back lighting. Importantly the frame will also play your MPEG-4 / .AVI video, JPEG photos. When the frame activates after sensing movement it can play either your photos (from where it left off in the slideshow) or videos. It has a generous 4GB memory, housed in a very small and portable USB thumb drive so you can conveniently move photos from your computer to your frame. Combined with a simple, clear remote control, it’s a breeze to get started and with a 12 inch screen, your photos will stand out in every room.
SanDisk Ultra
Everyone needs another memory card (or two).  Just make sure you know what kind they need.
 
WD My Passport Ultra HD
 
They are backing up their photos aren’t they?  That’s what I thought.  They will need one of these asap.

I Shoot People

I Shoot People

Perfect gift for the portrait photographer on your list.

Adobe Lightroom 5

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5

Best photo editing software on the planet and you can get it for PC or Mac.  Amazing gift if they are still using Picasa or iPhoto.

CowboyStudio Photography/Video Portrait Umbrella Continuous Triple Lighting Kit

CowboyStudio Photography/Video Portrait Umbrella Continuous Triple Lighting Kit with Three Day Light CFL Bulbs, Three Stands, Two Umbrellas, and One Carrying Case For Product, Portrait, and Video Shoots

This kit provides 375 Watts of continuous lighting and it is a very good start for beginners. Entire kit sets up in minutes, and very easy to operate.  An incredible gift to someone who is thinking of setting up an in home or portable studio, a documentary project or just wants some good lights at their disposal.

CowboyStudio Table Top Photo Studio Light Tent Kit
 
The Optex Portable Photo Studio Kit is a bright photo tent with diffuser screens and dual concave reflectors that provide soft, daylight balanced light. A double-sided backdrop provides a background choice of blue or grey for optional contrast with light or dark objects.The portable kit includes a photo tent (16” cube), double sided backdrop (blue/grey), 2 light fixtures, bulbs and mini tripod.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS25 16.1 MP Tough Digital Camera with 8x Zoom

Panasonic TS25

Sometimes it’s best you not take your DSLR with you (like into the pool or ocean).  I personally love this camera.  Small form factor, ruggedized and it takes great photos.

Polaroid Cube
This 1080p Full HD camera is only an inch by an inch.  Designed to go everywhere that you go, it is only $99.  After reading it’s specs, you understand why it is the bestselling underwater camcorder on Amazon (beating out the GoPro and Sony rivals)

AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras and Accessories

AmazonBasics Backpack Camera Bag

You can pay a lot for a camera bag from ThinkTank, Kata, or LowePro or you can get this bag from Amazon for $30.  Your choice.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for your Wife, Girlfriend & other Important Women in Your Life | 2014 Edition

Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the people in your life.  Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life.

Wendy is hard to shop for.  She never makes a list until it’s too late and doesn’t really crave a whole bunch of things which makes Christmas (and birthday) shopping hard.  In case your wife is awesome like Wendy but hard to shop for, here are some Christmas gift ideas to consider.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant

The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This beautiful design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set , 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.

iPod Nano 16gb

Why would you get her a iPod Nano when she probably has a smart phone.  Two reasons.  Smartphones tend to fill up with apps and if you have a 8gb or even a 16gb iPhone, she may not have enough room to have much music on it.  The second reason is that she may have an Android or a Blackberry meaning that managing your music with iTunes is a pain in the neck.

An iPod Nano gives her 16gb of storage in an extremely compact package.  It may not do everything that her phone or an iPod Touch does but it plays her music really well at an affordable price.

Big Jambox

Wendy has always loved music and has always wanted a massive stereo system.  Since we have a small home, the dream has never come true.  Lucky for Wendy there are some excellent compact speaker systems as options. Here are a few of them.

I have traditionally recommended the Bose Wave home audio system.  It provides legendary sound, is $499 but has fallen behind the times.  It bugs me that even with the new version you have to add an optional and costly Bluetooth receiver to stream music wirelessly from your iPod.  Yet if the women you are shopping for still prefers CDs to iTunes, it is probably the best audio system you can get for her.

For the iPod/Android crowd, I am suggesting you get her a Big Jambox.

The Big Jambox turns any mobile device (phone, tablet, media player, computer) into a portable, hi-fi sound system that wirelessly delivers amazingly clear, full audio at any volume.

 

Help keep her warm this winter with a faux fur blanket.  Perfect for outdoor, watching TV. Stay warm this winter and feel great with this faux fur throw. Unbelievably soft and plush. Dynamic decor piece to throw over a couch or chair, it serves as a fashionable, functional accent piece. Perfect blanket to cuddle up on a chilly evening without any of the guilt and cost of using real mink fur.

 
This is a fun gift.  It is an Air Plant with clear glass hanging terrarium wide with glass bottom. Kit includes pebbles, moss, glass globe and air plant.  The kit is a great addition to any room at any price.
 
Speaking of gardening

The ultimate garden book “both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, this well illustrated compendium combines images, text, key information and captions for each of the featured gardens, appealing to both amateur and professional gardeners, as well as garden designers.

Samsung Chromebook 

Samsung’s Chromebook laptop has been deemed by many to be a success. Lightweight, inexpensive and practical as everything operates off your Google Drive, the Chromebook is great for any career woman on the move.

Chromebooks are great if you are comfortable with using Google Apps but if she is the type that wants to do more with a computer, check out the Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook.

It runs Windows 8.1, has 2gb of RAM, and is totally silent as it is cooled passively.  No fans means no noise.  It’s only $200, runs iTunes, some games, Microsoft Office (or Open Office).  An amazing netbook for the money.

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set is a great holiday gift for anyone who loves hosting a great dinner party and doing so in style.

This set of cheese service knives includes a spreader for soft cheeses like Montrachet a serving knife for Gruyere and Gouda and a cleaver for hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. Sparkling stainless steel handles carry the signature logo of the Laguiole ‘Bee’. A wooden gift and storage box completes this gourmet set.

 
Initial jewelry is all the rage. The 14k Gold Circle Disk Letter "A" Pendant showcases a simple yellow-gold design. Resting from an 18-inch cable chain is a gentle yellow gold disk. A capital letter is engraved in the middle of the disk, to personalize the pendant. The simple design is a jewellery box must-have for accessorizing a day-to-day look. A wonderful gift for the holidays.
 
Fast and convenient, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavor with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds).  It’s the number one selling coffee press on Amazon for a reason.
 
 

Wendy works full time and then has to come home to a household of two sons and me.  In other words she puts up with days that make mine seem like a meditation retreat.  Give your wife a break from the chaos with these noise cancelling headphones.  If you are on a budget, check out the Sony MDR-NC7 Noise Cancelling headphones for about $40 or JVC HANC250 Noise Cancelling Headphones for about $120.

 
 
I leant Wendy my noise cancelling headphones for a flight to Winnipeg.  She never gave them back.  She will love a pair of great sounding headphones.
 

I’m a Mom
 

She’ll love this mug.

Timex Women’s "Ironman Traditional" Sport Watch

Wendy has sensitive skin and watches irritate her horribly.  So when I gave Wendy this Timex Ironman watch, she had some serious doubts over whether or not she could wear it.  A year later, she is still wearing it every day.  Because the watch and band are all one piece, it is an incredibly comfortable watch to wear.  Because it is from Timex, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

 
The R H Forschner by Victorinox Chef’s Knife features an 8-inch blade that is 2-inches wide at the handle. High carbon, stainless steel blade is hand finished at Victorinox in Switzerland by skilled craftsmen. A special tempering process is used to produce an edge that can be resharpened over and over again, so the knife can keep its original sharpness throughout the entire life of the blade.
If you are looking for an entire knife block set, check out the Zwilling J.A. Henckels 7-pc Knife Block Set for $120 which is almost $150 off.  The set includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 5-inch serrated utility knife, a 4-inch paring knife, and a 2-1/2-inch peeling knife, as well as a sharpening steel and a pair of shears. All components fit within an 11-slot hardwood block, which offers four extra slots for future knife acquisitions.  She’ll love it. You’ll love it.  You’ll pass them on to your kids.
 
 
It brews the perfect cup of tea every time.  It is the most efficient, simple and clean way to steep tea. Simply add tea and water at the correct temperature, then put the tea maker on your favorite mug to drain.
 
 
Like most people with a sense of humour, Wendy is a huge WKRP in Cincinnati fan.  Join everyone’s favorite radio DJ’s the rockin’ Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and the soulful Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid) as they weave through the inner-office antics of the crazy WKRP staff; including the station’s program director Andy (Gary Sandy), indecisive manager Arthur (Gordon Jump), advertising executive Herb (Frank Bonner) and, of course, the station’s lovely receptionist, Jennifer (Loni Anderson). So sit back and enjoy the sound of uproarious laughter as you watch all episodes of this iconic series.
 
Of course the reason why it was so long of wait to be released was the hassle in obtaining the rights for the original music.  This set has 90% of the music in the set.  The missing music is the music industry being, well the music industry.
 
Forget the fast food drive-through. With the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, you can enjoy a hot, homemade breakfast sandwich in under 5 minutes. Simply place the ingredients inside, build the base of your sandwich in the bottom layer, place the egg on the cooking plate and close the lid. Slide the cooking plate out and your sandwich assembles itself. Open the lid and your hot breakfast sandwich is ready to eat. The included recipe book provides a variety of breakfast sandwich options, from the traditional egg, ham and cheese to the unique cheddar, apple, bacon and egg croissant sandwich.
 
I have a Nike+ Fueband and when I use it, it works great.  It has been supplanted in both men and women’s minds by the FitBit Flex activity tracker.  It tracks steps, distance, and calories burned and shows you how you’re stacking up against your daily goals. At night, it tracks your sleep cycle, helps you learn how to sleep better, and wakes you silently in the morning. Access your stats anytime on your computer, tablet or from leading smartphones – both iPhone and Android.
 
In the age of tablets, Kindles often get relegated in our minds.  If you are buying for a serious reader, there really is only one option and that is a Kindle.  Wired gave it’s predecessor the Kindle Paperwhite a score of 9/10 which is the highest score they have ever given.  Then they come out this year and say the Kindle Voyage is even better.
 
Here is what you want to know: Yes, the Kindle Voyage is better than the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s thinner, faster, brighter, lighter, newer, has a better screen, has more memory (4GB vs last year’s Paperwhite’s 2GB) commands more magical elf armies, owns a Ferrari, and is nicer to your grandmother.

iRobot Roomba 880 Vacuum Cleaning Robot For Pets and Allergies

The iRobot Roomba 880 is the ultimate high performance robotic vacuum cleaner. Featuring the revolutionary new AeroForce Performance Cleaning System and AeroForce Extractors, it’s proven to remove up to 50% more dirt, dust, hair, debris and harmful allergens from all floor types and is virtually maintenance free.

Of course the best part of this gift is that it saves you and her time, time that you can spend together.

So there you go.  I assume I have forgotten, many, many ideas so let me know what I have forgotten the comments below.  You can check out the other Christmas and holiday gift guides while you are at it.

Christmas Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2013 Edition

Mark is turning 13 which means he is both more expensive and impossible to shop for.  If you have a teen, you know what I am talking about.  To help save you some pain and stress, I put together this Christmas gift guide full of ideas for your teenager this Christmas.

The bad news here if you are Mark, don’t get too excited.  I know you read this and you aren’t getting any of it.


GoPro Hero 3+

Mark loves my GoPro Hero whenever I let him use it and now that he has gotten older and his having his own adventures, his desire to document jumping off cliffs, swimming in a summer storm, or biking single track wherever he can find it increases by the day.  If your teenager is like him, check out the GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition.  It is 15% smaller and lighter than previous models, it’s 2x more powerful—making it the most advanced Silver Edition camera yet. Wearable, gear-mountable and waterproof to 131’/40m, it captures professional-quality video at resolutions up to 1080p60 and 10MP photos at up to 10 frames per second. With faster built-in Wi-Fi, enhanced low-light performance and 30% longer battery life, the HERO3+ Silver Edition makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.

GoProHero3 action camera

  • Purchase at Amazon | $300

Nikon Coolpix S31 waterproof cameraNikon Coolpix S31

Nikon has an entry level shock proof and waterproof camera for under $90.  It takes decent pictures, has a variety of creative filters and features and unlike other low cost cameras, allows a person to do time lapse photography.

It offers 10 megapixel photography, 3x optical zoom, 720p HD video and with it being waterproof, it can be taken everywhere.  A great first camera for any teenager.  It also comes in blue and pink.


Canon Powershot N

Canon Powershot N cameraThe new PowerShot N opens up a new dimension of photographic expression, helping you express your personal style and flair with a whole new camera design, you know because the old camera design isn’t that cool anymore.

The PowerShot N features an entirely new design, sporting a functional sleek shape. Shutter and zoom rings enable quick, intuitive operation, and a new 2.8-inch tilt-type capacitive touch screen offers amazing photographic flexibility; shoot diagonally, horizontally, from low angles or high for versatile expression. The camera features a new Creative Shot mode for artistic image capture, automatically creating an additional five unique images every time you take a shot. The 12.1 Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 Image Processor create the Canon HS SYSTEM for stunning image quality and low-light performance, ensuring every photo is a powerful statement. An 8x Optical Zoom with 28mm Wide-Angle lens captures brilliant images with grandeur, from up close or far away.

Record 1080p Full HD video when you want to express yourself with moving images, and know that the enhanced built-in Wi-Fi® of the PowerShot N makes sharing easier than ever. A convenient Mobile Device Connect Button also brings powerful new sharing capabilities with smartphone connectivity. Express your creative style with the PowerShot N and share with the world, all with a simple touch!


X-Mini UNO Portable Capsule Speakers

X-Mini UNO Portable Capsule SpeakersThe UNO is the first of the X-mini Capsule Speaker series to feature new ceramic drivers. Seen more commonly in industrial-sized speakers, the ceramic drivers have been scaled down to the pocket-size with the UNO, which delivers clearer and crisper sounds than ever before.

Delivering on the promise of Sound Beyond Size, the UNO is petite in size but massive in sound. The UNO retains all the outstanding features of the X-mini Capsule Speaker range but ups the ante by offering sound quality that no other affordable speaker can rival.

They sound pretty good but won’t provide so many watts that it could damage the foundation to your home.


Sony MDR-ZX100 HeadphonesSony MDR-ZX100 Headphones

Like most teens, Mark loves his music.  After he broke his old headphones the day before a big trip, I went out and bought him a pair of Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones.  The price was right and I have always enjoyed mine.  Mark fell in love with him and despite me asking him if he wants to upgrade, he keep saying no that these are the pair that he loves to listen to.  Since then I got Wendy a pair and she loves hers as well.

They fold flat, sound even better after being used for a while and are comfortable.   Add it all up and for $16, you get an attractive set of headphones that sound great.


Skullcandy Ink’d Heaphphones

Skullcandy INK'd headphones

Individual tastes matter a lot with headphones.  While I prefer my Bose IE2 headphones, Mark loves his Skullcandy headphones.  Skullcandy’s best-selling INK’D earbuds feature a customizable fit and 11mm speaker drivers that tattoo your temporal lobes with full-color sonic art. Select colors include an inline mic and control switch to keep you in touch with your tunes and the outside world. Skullcandy’s INK’d earbuds come with three separate sizes of silicone eartips (small, medium, and large) to help you get the perfect fit to go with your sound.


Tony Hawk Birdhouse Skateboard

Tony Hawk Birdhouse Skateboard

Brand New Birdhouse skateboard brought to you by skateboard legend, Tony Hawk.

  • 4 – Tony Hawk Birdhouse Wheels 53mm
  • 2 – Tony Hawk Birdhouse Raw Trucks
  • 8 – Tony Hawk Birdhouse Abec 3 Bearings
  • Tony Hawk Birdhouse Hardware Black Grip Tape
  • Purchase at Amazon | $65

In case you don’t know who Tony Hawk is

He’s still a really big deal around the world.


Acer Aspire V5

Acer Aspire V5 Netbook ComputerI know tablets are the next big thing and we love our iPad but students have homework and have to learn how to write.  The best device for that?  A laptop.  If you are looking for one, check out this laptop by Acer.  It features

  • Windows 7 Home Premium – 64-bit version (let me be honest, you don’t want Windows 8)
  • 1.5GHz Intel Celeron 1007U processor, 4GB DDR3 memory, 500GB hard drive
  • 11.6-Inch LCD display (1366 x 768), Intel HD Graphics, Intel NM70 Express chipset
  • Webcam, Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN, Bluetooth, HDMI, USB
  • card reader, 6.5-hour battery, 1-year limited warranty

Once it is opened up on Christmas Day, head on over to Ninite for the free (and spyware free) software that will make this computer and excellent student (or work) computer for years. 


LiteHawk Zoom R/C Airplane

LiteHawk Zoom R/C AirplaneHow much fun would one of these be?

Take to the skies with the LiteHawk ZOOM R/C airplane. It’s controlled using powerful 2.4GHz wireless technology, features a 17.5″ wingspan, and makes it easy to progress from take-offs and landings to more complex maneuvers. It’s made using high quality brushless technology, as well as light yet durable materials.  Several of the reviews say it can be easily controlled by even a novice pilot.

More Information

  • Designed for outdoor flight with few obstacles and low winds
  • Boasting brushless motor technology,
  • 2.4GHz spread spectrum radio technology ensures a strong signal and compatibility with up to 80 different zoom airplanes
  • 17.5-inch wingspan
  • Manufactured using ultra light, anti-crush foam, the Zoom features carbon control links, a carbon reinforced elevator, reinforced leading edges of wings for added strength and a detachable landing gear for field or uneven surface landings
  • 10 minutes of flight time per charge
  • Radio features include a soft touch throttle control stick, power switch and rudder control stick
  • A variety of replacement parts are available

 


Fender “Stop Dreaming, Start Playing” Set

Fender Guitar and AmpAffinity Series Strat with Fender Frontman 10G AmpThere’s no easier and more affordable way to get started on electric guitar than this value-filled Squier set. Opening this box opens a whole new musical future for you, with a great-sounding, cool-looking and easy-playing Affinity Series Strat guitar, a compact 10-watt Fender Frontman 10G amp to plug it into and all the accessories you need, including an electronic tuner, instructional DVD, gig bag, cable, strap and picks.

Squier Affinity Series Strat is available in Black and Brown Sunburst, and features three singing, sparkling single-coil pickups on a classic single-ply white pickguard, rock-solid bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, skirted white control knobs and a sharp new gold-and-black Squier headstock logo. Fender Frontman 10G amp features custom-voiced built-in overdrive for natural grit and adjustable gain control that rocks guitar tones from tube-emulated overdrive to full-strength ultra-saturated distortion (perfect for blues, metal and the famous Fender clean tone), along with volume, treble and bass controls, 6-Inch Special Design speaker, closed-back design for heavier bass response, auxiliary input and headphone jack, and classic black panel/skirted knob/silver grille cloth looks. You get guitar, amp, accessories and instruction all at once, and more than ever it’s everything you need to Stop Dreaming and Start Playing!


Christmas Gift GuidesAm I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

You can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas For Your Wife/Girlfriend/Mother | 2013 Edition

I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewelry to stuff for the kitchen.  Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well.  I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year.  It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.

Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments.  You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.

Technology

Tablets continue to be big and if she is thinking of upgrading her laptop, check out these tablets by Amazon, Apple, and Google.

Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX packs a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 1,920-by-1,200 IPS LCD display for quick response and sharp images. One of the more interesting features is "Mayday," a tech support system where a live Amazon employee appears in a video window on your tablet.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX earned four-out-of-five stars in PCMag’s review, gaining points for its sharp screen, fast processor, and ease of use.  If you are shopping for a reader or a person who loves to online shop, this is a great choice.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $254

    Nexus 7

    2013 Google Nexus 7

    Google’s flagship tablet, this year’s version is thinner, lighter, and faster – Nexus 7 brings you the perfect mix of power and portability and features the world’s sharpest 7" tablet screen – putting over 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.

    Nexus 7 is made by ASUS and packs a serious punch. With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragonâ„¢ S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM, everything runs faster (or at least faster than the Kindle Fire HDX)

  • Purchase from Google | $229

    iPad Mini 2 (now with Retina display)

    iPod Mini 2

    iPad Mini 2 features a beautiful 7.9-inch display (now with retina display), iSight and FaceTime cameras, the A7 chip, ultrafast wireless, and up to 10 hours of battery life. And over 300,000 apps on the App Store made for iPad also work with iPad Mini. So it’s an iPad in every way, shape, and slightly smaller form.

    If she is an iPhone or Mac user, the integration with iMessage makes the iPad purchase a no-brainer.

  • Purchase from Apple | $329

    Amazon Kindle

    Amazon KindleIf you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic. Amazon Kindle ($69).  At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever (mine lasts for weeks).  It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading.  Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on commutes.

  • Purchase Amazon Kindle from Amazon.com | $69

    Kitchen

    Griddle

    Family Sized Griddle

    Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know.  They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for.  Since getting her one, she uses it several times a week and has become one of her favorite kitchen tools and has made cooking a lot easier.  She doesn’t know how she has gone without one.  Even at the cabin, where space is at a premium, Wendy bought one for up there. 

    If space is a concern, check out this compact apartment sized griddle from Presto.

  • Purchase family sized griddle from Amazon.com | $30
  • Purchase compact griddle from Amazon.com | $25

    Music

    iPod Nano | iPod Classic

    Apple iPod ClassicBoth the 16 gig and 160 gig versions hold thousands of songs and videos and can be taken everywhere.  I gave Wendy a 16 gig iPod Nano and she uses it all of the time.  It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display as well as FM radio.  You can also watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.

    The new iPod classic comes with 160GB of storage in the same compact size, making it the take-everything-everywhere iPod. It’s available in quintessential silver or striking black. iPod classic also has plenty of battery life (up to 36 hours of audio playback or 6 hours of video playback), good looks (a sleek, anodized aluminum design), and other great features (Cover Flow and Genius playlists for creating perfect playlists). You can even rent a movie from iTunes and watch it on the go.

    Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon

  • Purchase iPod Classic from Amazon | $249
  • Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon | $169

    JVC Xtreme Xplosive headphones

    JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesWhile headphones from Monster, Skull Candy, and Beats by Dre get a lot of attention, you may want to check out these excellent JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.  Both Wendy and I have a pair and they get used all of the time with our iPod’s and provide a great sound at a price that is affordable.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $16

    Sony MDR ZX300 Headphones

    Sony MDR ZX300 headphones Boasting 30mm drivers, the Sony MDR ZX300 headphones are designed for use in and out of the studio. These MDR-ZX300 ZX Series stereo headphones feature high-quality audio components; pressure-relieving, urethane-cushioned earpads for greater comfort and a noise-reducing, supra-aural design.

    We have three pairs of these in the house and they get used for everything from chilling out to music to editing podcasts.  They are comfortable, inexpensive, and they look good.

    They aren’t on par with Beats Solo or Bose AE2 but they are about $80 cheaper than either one of those (excellent) options while still giving you excellent sound quality.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $23

    Bose Wave Music

    Bose Wave Music System

    The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos.  It looks great and will upgrade any home stereo system.  If your wife or girlfriend is a music lover, this is gift you are looking for.

    Its bold, detailed sound remains exceptional for a system of its size. Now, there’s even more to like. An advanced FM/AM tuner displays useful information like song titles and artists. Touch-top on/off/snooze controls and dual alarms make waking up a little easier–for both of you. You’ll appreciate these welcome additions, plus the same jaw-dropping sound, elegant finish and easy operation you’ve come to expect from this system.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $500

    X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

    X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

    Developed in Singapore, the X-miniâ„¢ MAX II Capsule Speakerâ„¢ is expertly designed to be ultraportable and precisely engineered to deliver a superior sound. With a simple twist and lift, the avant garde capsule-shaped design unveils a pair of stereo speakers. These stylish speakers, which can also be used individually, pop open to reveal the patented accordion-like Bass Xpansion Systemâ„¢ (BXSâ„¢) which successfully mimics the resonance of a sub woofer.

    The logical choice for the itinerant music aficionado, the powerful yet compact X-miniâ„¢ MAX II Capsule Speakerâ„¢produces high-fidelity sound at any pitch or volume and is perfect in all environments, be it the boardroom or kitchen.

    Purchase from Amazon.com | $40


    Lifestyle

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

    Timex Women’s Ironman Watch Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat; a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $35

    Wenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss WatchWenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss Watch

    Stylish enough for everyday professional wear, the Wenger Battalion II Diver stainless steel women’s watch is also rugged enough for extreme snow sports and scuba diving–thanks to its water resistance to 200 meters (660 feet). The mid-sized, round silver watch case is topped by a blue-plated unidirectional rotating bezel with elapsed time markings and a luminous marker at the zero position. The shimmery royal blue dial face is complemented by luminous markers and hands (with red seconds hand), small minute indexes around the outer edge, and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Other features include a handsome triple-link stainless steel bracelet, knurled screw-down crown, classic Swiss Army insignia at 12 o’clock, a scratch-resistant mineral crystal, and precise Swiss quartz movement.

    Purchase from Amazon.com | $200


    Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

    Why not upgrade her camera this Christmas with a Fujifilm JX600?  It is a slim, stylish digital camera built to let you capture the moments that bring a smile to your face. With a 5x zoom, this 14MP camera has a CCD sensor to take crisp, clear images every time. Thin enough to pop in your pocket, it boasts advanced filter functions, takes stunning motion panoramas and records HD videos to preserve special moments long after they’ve happened.

    Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

  • Purchase from Best Buy | $80

  • Bodum Tea Press

    Bodum Tea PressA lovely way to brew tea to your exact preference, the Bodum Shin Cha tea press combines elegant shaping with crafty functionality. The spherical glass pot features a stainless-steel plunge infuser inside and a stainless-steel lid. Fill the infuser with loose leaf or tea bags, add hot water, wait the desired amount of steeping time, then plunge. The plunger pushes the tea below the infuser holes, so brewing stops on a dime and tea does not over steep to the point of bitterness. To clean up, the unit goes safely in the dishwasher.

  • Purchase from Amazon | $67


  • Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

    Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

    Photo enthusiasts rejoice! The new flagship of the spectacular Rebel Line, the EOS Rebel T5i, is here to renew your artistic side with amazing imaging features and full-featured functionality. Users will be impressed at how simple and intuitive it is to create breathtaking photos with ease.

    The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and Canon’s superb DIGIC 5 Image Processor. Combined with an extensive ISO range of 100–12800 (expandable to 25600 in H mode), the EOS Rebel T5i boasts crisp, detailed images, even in low-light situations. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.

    The performance doesn’t stop with photos. EOS Full HD Movie mode with Movie Servo AF makes shooting high quality movies easy, and the brilliant Vari-angle Touch Screen 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor II makes composing fun. Seven Creative Filters, now viewable in real time, puts composition control directly in your hands and is just one of the many features of the EOS Rebel T5i that is sure to renew your special person’s creative soul.

    If cost is a factor, check out Canon’s still capable Canon EOS Rebel T3i for $599.

  • Purchase from Amazon.com | $799
  • Sign up for a free terabyte of space for photos and video at Flickr.

    Detroit from ORK mapsOrk Posters

    If you or the target of your affections lives in Toronto, Vancouver, Boston,BrooklynLos Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle among others.  They are $22 a poster which makes them a pretty cool value.  Of course they don’t have one of either Brandon, Manitoba or Georgetown, Guyana which makes them pretty much useless for Wendy but maybe you will have some better luck.


    MEC Shoulder Bag

    MEC Shoulder BagWendy has had three different versions of one of MECs most popular bags.  The latest version has the vintage look of aged canvas, plus pockets and a slot for your iPad® or e-reader loaded with the complete works of Jack Kerouac.

    • Front flap has pocket.
    • Side pocket has Velcro® flap and a drain hole for your umbrella.
    • An outer pocket has a snap closure, one is zippered and has pen holder and inside pocket, the slot for iPad or e-book reader closes with Velcro.
    • Padded back.
    • Adjustable shoulder strap.

    This could be the coolest version yet.


    Christmas Gift Guides and IdeasAm I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

    You can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

  • 2013 Ford C Max Review

    13967 1

    The latest Ford vehicle I am reviewing is the 2013 Ford C-Max.  After letting Toyota kind of own the hybrid market with it’s Prius, Ford decided to make an excellent hybrid of it’s own.  Two models are headed to dealerships: the C-Max hybrid in September and, a few months later, the plug-in C-Max Energi with a larger battery pack for more electric-only driving.

    9070340983 db96871074 b

    I tested a Ford C Max SEL which has leather (heated) seats, keyless start, and the MyFord Touch system.  The model as tested lists at $30,199. With extra options, the price tag can rise past $35,000.  

    Before I get into it, one thing that I realized this week is not all people know what a hybrid is or how it works. The difference in a hybrid engine and a standard engine is this – the gasoline engine works in tandem with a two-motor, continuously variable planetary-gear transmission that uses one electric motor to provide traction power to the wheels and one motor to change the C-Max’s battery is a compact, air-cooled 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack mounted under the cargo-area floor and comprised of dozens of cylindrical cells from Sanyo Corporation.  Let’s hope they work better than my Sanyo Sportster.

    The result is that when you start the car, you hear nothing other than the fan.  With the Ford Explorer, the keyless entry worked poorly and I have had the same result because it wouldn’t recognize the FOB.  With the C Max, there is no noise because the engine is being powered by that battery pack.  It’s both initially alarming and amazing.  It feels like you are driving the car of the future.

    When you get in and are 6’4, you are amazed at how big the car is.  I have always wanted to buy a Ford Grand Marquis and take a summer and explore the #1 Highway and Route 66.  If I was going to do it today, I would buy a Ford C-Max.  Considering the far is small on the outside, it is quite large on the inside with lots of storage space to keep kids, dogs, and gear in.  

    In someways it is a bit of a competitor with my the Ford Escape (click here to let you know how much I loved that crossover).  While running some errands with it, we unintentionally parked it beside a 2013 Ford Escape.  Right beside each other you realize that you are not giving much up in terms of space between the C Max and Escape.

    As for as in car experience, it was positive.  While I have long had a car charger for my iPhone, the cigarette lighter doesn’t drive enough volts to it to charge it quickly.  In the C Max I would toss my iPhone into the arm rest compartment and it would be charged up in no time.  The only odd part of it was that when the car would start up with the iPhone plugged in, it would start playing my podcasts that I had downloaded to the phone and not the previously playing Sirius Radio.

    9072565730 e705cdeb42 b

    The MyFord Touch continues to baffle me.  I have had quite a few issues with the Touch system in each car I have reviewed.  In the Escape it would often talk over a block to switch from the backup camera to the navigation screen.  In the Edge it was incredibly sluggish, a feature that was shared with the Explorer.  In the Ford Escape, it had problems syncing both mine and Chris Enns phone until it just mysteriously started working.

    On Saturday night, the Sync just stopped working for some reason while I was driving home from Walmart.  Then the touch screen froze.  I got home, turned off the car and the screen was still on.  20 minutes later, it was still on and I realized that I was going to have a) a dead battery or b) in my neighbourhood, a broken into car.  I wasn’t happy.

    I went online to see what the problem is that I saw that MyFord Touch freezing up is a fairly common problem and pretty easily fixed if I wanted to swap out fuses.  I did not but I read of some other solutions that involved driving, waiting, chanting, doing a rain dance, more driving, chanting, and turning off the car.  Since none of these needed a dealer or involved me doing anything to the car, I chose that route and hoped for the best.  

    After about 30 minutes the MyFord Touch reset itself.  As a reviewer I found the problem a little irritating as I don’t have a dealer relationship but I took some time to think about it as an owner and I don’t think it would be that bad.  The fix appears to be quite easy (pop some fuses out, wait a few minutes, put them back in) and then all I would have to do is resync my phone.  There are apparently some apps on the Ford website that can induce a reboot and if that is the case, I would just keep a thumb drive in the console.  

    So normally you would think that something that happened during a review period would be even worse.  In this case, if I was the owner, I don’t think it would bother me.  Software bugs are a part of our life right now.  Even my Nike Fuel Band needed a firmware update.   Of course with the system being powered by Microsoft, you almost expect the car to have a CTRL-ALT-DELETE key to come installed. 🙂  I tend to think that many of these problems will get worked out in the next software update.  Of course like all software updates, that can bring new problems.  During this I was also thinking, while this is annoying, I would hate for this to happen while flying a F-35 Lightening II which has a lot more complicated software and is, you know, a plane designed to fly into hostile airspace.

    The only other bad thing about the car can be chalked up to karma.  After testing several cars with heated seats and then quietly turning them up while we drive on the unsuspecting passenger, both Wendy, Mark, and some friends got me with it.  It’s a lot nicer feature when it happens to someone else.

    The Hybrid Experience

    I really enjoyed driving this hybrid.  Like all Ford Eco vehicles, the leaves appearing and disappearing according to how you drive but for me, the best part of the hybrid experience was a summary screen that showed my fuel usage, efficiency, and mileage at the end of each trip.  It left me thinking as I got out of the car, how that trip could have been more efficient and as I got back in, it made me think how to do this trip better.  I actually walked more and drove less.  I don’t know what that does the Ford C Max sales if it encourages us to drive less but I liked it.  It is something that I would love to see in every vehicle.

    A combination of driving less and the hybrid motor meant that I used less than half the fuel that we would normally use in a week.

    The rated MPG for the C Max is 47/47 (US) mile per gallon city/hwy EPA-rated.  If you take a look at Fuelly, you will see some real world mileage numbers for a variety of Ford C Max owners.   As you can see, they range from a low of 33 to a high of 48 mpg with the majority averaging around 40 mpg which was a little less than what we got.  I was impressed.  The EPA rated MPG of 47 was higher than the Toyota Prius but the Fuelly numbers show a different story.  It’s an issue that has caused Ford some problems but the National Post suggest the way that the EPA calculates fuel economy is “asinine” and inaccurate.

    So, why is there such a vast discrepancy? That I cannot state for sure, although the tests used to generate the “official” federal numbers are asinine, particularly when it comes to calculating the highway consumption figure. I quote: “The highway test simulates a 16-km trip with an average speed of 77 km/h and a top speed of 97 km/h.” Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove on the highway following this guideline? I never have because it could involve getting run over by a tractor trailer — to my mind, that sort of highway speed should be classified as dangerous driving.

    That being said, when I was out on the highway and hit the cruise, the Ford Eco engine would kick in and I burned very little fuel at 100 kph.  Low RPMs and almost no engine noise even though the 2.0L/188 hp engine is doing almost all of the work.   Because of it’s larger size and larger engine, I would expect highway fuel economy to be good but not amazing, essentially because at that speed, the electric engine isn’t doing the work, the gas one is.  

    The Rest of the Car

    As Mark will post later tonight, the backseat experience is good.  My 13 year old had adequate foot room and as I could see on the passenger side, Oliver was able to reach the back of his mother’s seat with his feet.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    9070322863 561fa3e871 b

    I did plug my iPod Nano into the Sony audio system, something that I hadn’t done lately and took the car for a drive.  The sound is rich and nuanced.  While any car audio experience isn’t as rich because of the road noise, it does generate a nice rich sound.  It goes back to my initial thoughts about the car, this is a car that you will enjoy highway travelling in.

    The batteries go in the back which does reduce trunk space a bit.  Here is the rear storage area with a window in it (it’s going to the cabin)

    9070315273 07c2d57b9a c

    9072537424 2688bed9f1 b

    Underneath the back compartment there is a secret compartment.  Well not secret but a good place to hide Christmas gifts while you are out shopping with the family. 

    9070312835 8d6b1d6476 b

    Mark said you someone could use it for contraband but my thinking if you are that bad of a smuggler, Jabba the Hut or the RCMP has tossed you in jail years ago. 

    To be honest, the storage thing is really not that big of deal for me.  I drove the C Max Energi in Regina and there is less storage in it but there is still a large room to put a dog, gear, groceries, or hockey equipment.  The hidden storage compartment would be perfect for a tool kit and emergency gear.  

    Would I Buy a Ford C Max?

    I love the Ford Escape but I would be sorely tempted to buy a Ford C Max.  A combination of fuel efficiency and so much interior room would make up for the Escape’s all wheel drive.  More importantly I think Wendy liked the C Max more so it may be a decision that is out of my hands.  If you are thinking of a hybrid or just a new car, head down to your local Ford dealer and make sure you take a test drive.  It’s worth checking out.

    Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriend (all of the men in your life) | 2012 Edition

    It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible Christmas gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and here it is.  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.  For the entire list of Christmas gift guides, click here.

    Tablets

    I bought Jordon an iPad last Christmas and has has loved it.  Now he is an Apple person (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook) but not everyone is.  The good news is that there are some amazing tablets on the market for both Android, Apple, and even Blackberry users.

    When you are looking for a tablet, make sure you understand how the person is going to use it.  I bought Jordon a 16gb iPad because Jordon is going to use it for some writing (using Pages, the occasional Keynote presentation) and surf the web.  He had no intention on putting his music on his iPad because he uses his iPod for that task.  If he was going to use it as a all-in-one machine, I would have gone out and got him a 64gb version.

    Also, some have bought them with the idea that they will replace their laptop or computer.  They really don’t for most of our friends (although as I was typing this, Jordon points out that he has never seen Saskatoon City Councillor Charlie Clark use anything but his iPad and his Logitech keyboard/case).

    Whatever your preference,  I have listed tablets from all operating systems below.

    Google Nexus 10Android | Nexus 10 ($409) and Nexus 7 ($209) from Google.  Both offer world class speed and design and in a lot of ways are designed and produced to set the standard for Android devices running on tablets in the same way Google designed the Nexus phone to do for smartphones.

    Android | Kindle Fire 8.9 ($299) and Kindle Fire HD($199)  Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire to mediocre reviews last year but has stepped up their game with the Kindle Fire 8.9 inch tablet and the Kindle Fire HD which offers retina level display on an Android device.  If you surf the web a lot, the Kindle Fire has the fastest wifi of any tablet out there.

    kindle-fire-hd-89

    iPad MiniApple | iPad ($499)) and iPad Mini ($329) | While more expensive then the Kindle Fire HD, it has the advantage of the most spectacular collection of apps out there.  Also it offers fantastic integration between your iPhone and Mac.  Like I said  before, Jordon has an iPad 2 and loves it.

    Blackberry PlaybookBlackberry Playbook ($194 for a 32gb model) | I include this here because I know there is still a passionate community of Blackberry users out there.  It’s a good value for the price but it doesn’t have a lot of apps for it.  It’s one of those things that I would get for a guy who knew what he was getting and still really wanted.  When I asked Jordon, he said there are those out that that still live and die on Blackberry Messenger and it has that… kind of.  Maybe you should just get any Blackberry lovers on your list, a new phone.

    Music

    iPod Classic ($249) | iPod Nano ($149) | iPod Touch($299)

    iPod ClassiciPod TouchiPod Nano

    Depending on the person you are shopping for, they are going to have different demands on what they want out of a iPod or MP3 player.  Some people want all of their music at their fingertips all of the time, some want something to work out with, and some want to be connected to all of their apps while they are listening to their music.  Whatever kind of person you are shopping for, there is an iPod for them.

    Sony WalkmanIf the person you are shopping for isn’t an Apple fan, look at a Sony Walkman ($110).  While the design and features look amazing, I am a little surprised it only comes in a 8 gb version, of which 1.25 gb is used by the software.  So if you are looking for a 6.75 gb MP3 player in a great design package and a good price, here it is.  It is slightly smaller than the Apple iPod Nano but has a lot of the same features.  While MP3 quality is lacking, with Sony you know you are getting something that is quality made and designed.

    41mxVSz7SkLWhatever MP3 player you get, you will want to upgrade the headphones.  JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme ($17) headphones are much loved at an affordable price.  The series feature a bass port for outstanding bass reproduction, a durable rubber protector for impact protection and to help withstand heavy use, and a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug.  The Xplosive Xtreme also comes with a handy carrying case. 2.6mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type) Special hard carrying case included S/M/L silicone ear-pieces included Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo straight plug iPod, iphone and iPad compatible.

    If you aren’t sure the person you are shopping for would appreciate a MP3 player, why not pick up a Polaroid 8 gb MP3 player ($40)?  It may not have the features of the iPod or Walkman but it does offer a really good value and is expandable with a SDHC card.

    iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers ($45) | These are incredible speakers that provide a rich sound.  They have a carrying case which means that they get taken with us everywhere, just like our iPods.

    iHome Rechargable Mini Speakers

    They work great with our iPods, netbooks, and our portable DVD player.

    Tivoli Model One ($149) | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.

    Office

    Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

    Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

    Every guy needs a nice pen and this fountain pen is both affordable enough to give a nice gift but if high enough quality to last for decades.  If you aren’t sure the person on your list would appreciate a fountain pen, you won’t go wrong with a Parker IM rollerball pen($19).

    Parker IM Rollerball Pen

    Tabletop fountain ($49) | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At The Lighthouse, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.

    Wrapped leather journalOf course he will need something to write down his profound thoughts in so why not give him a leather wrapped journal for Christmas?  Chapters/Indigo has an amazing one for $45.  While you are at it, check out this $15 5 inch globe.

    Video and Camera

    71cqBTpP-3L._AA1500_GoPro HD Hero 2 ($199) | Born from a passion to capture your love of life from your perspective, this camera is a feat of engineering. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197′ (60M) and boasting an immersive 170° wide-angle lens, the HD HERO2 has ushered in a new era of image capture. Professional quality 30 fps 1080p and 60 fps 720p video, combined with 11 megapixel still photo capture that has landed magazine covers.  It’s a great camera and a lot of fun for the entire family.    With this grab bag of mounts, you can hook it up to almost anything.

    Sony Bloggie ($69) | Jordon has a Kodak Zi8 for years and has loved it.  We gave Lee a Flip camera a year ago and even Mark has one.  While you cell phone can record HD video, it doesn’t have the same kind of quality than a dedicated video camera gives you and it is a lot easier to deal with a SD card than trying to get a video off your iPhone.  If the guy you are shopping for is one that loves to take video, make sure you check this camera out.

    Fuji Fine Pix XP50 ($150) | For years we have been fans of Fuji point and shoot cameras and the XP50 is no exception.   It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.

    If the guy you are shopping for loves audio or is a podcaster, consider getting him a Blue Snowball ($60)or Yeti USB ($109) microphone.  Both provide amazing clear sound and are a significant upgrade over the internal microphone in a laptop.

    Home

    31531_lBlack and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker ($48) | Jordon is a coffee connoisseur and while the ultimate way to make a cup of coffee is with a French Press or a Aeropress coffee maker ($25), he doesn’t always have time.  For times when he needs 8 cups of coffee relatively quick and wants it to stay fresh for a while, there is this thermal coffee maker from Black and Decker.  With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless clean up.  The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time.  The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.

    Atari Flashback ($50)| Over 75 Atari 2600 games all in one console.  Jordon laments the exclusion of Pac-Man but you can get Missile Command, Asteroids, and Combat all on console.  Let him relive his childhood at the same time making him a subject of mockery of any child in the family.

    PlayStation 3 ($269) | Yes it’s a game console but it’s also a Blu-Ray and DVD player, a Netflix player (which works way better than the Wii), and allows the family to play online.  We use it all of the time to watch Netflix, movies, and also we still play a fair amount of games.  While it’s not something that we would ever consider essential to our family life, it’s hard to imagine doing without.

    Leatherman Skelatool ($42) or the Gerber Suspension Multitool ($26) | Both are amazing multi-tools and life is just better for men when they know they have a great multi-tool within reach.  If the guy you are shopping for needs something even smaller, then check out the Cabela’s multi-tool.  A great tool in a small package.

    While the guys I know aren’t big on jewellery, they do appreciate a nice watch.  If the guy you are shopping for loves a nice watch, check out the Timex Expedition Rugged Field Watch ($46), the Timex Expedition Digital/Analog watch ($44.96) or the rather classic Timex Atlantis 100 ($31).

    Parrot AR Drone 2.0

    Finally don’t forget probably the most wanted gift of the season, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) The Parrot AR.Drone is the first quadricopter that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. By tilting your device, you control the direction of your AR.Drone, and by releasing it, the AR.Drone is instantly stabilized. Thanks to the AR.Drone’s autopilot feature, anyone can be an expert as the AR.Drone allows for an easy take-off and landing.  It’s about as amazing and as much found as it sounds.

    Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

    March 11th

    In what is a tradition around here, I tend to live blog my birthday.  For some reason some of you care about that and who am I to mess with a stupid tradition.  (2011 | 2009| 2008 | 2007| 2006 | 2005 | 2003)

    12:00 a.m. | Sleeping

    1:00 a.m. | Fighting with Maggi for covers on the bed.

    1:15 a.m. | Maggi won.  Darn it.

    2:00 a.m. | Pretending to sleep so Wendy will get up with Oliver who is sick.

    3:00 a.m. | Sleeping

    4:00 a.m. | Sleeping

    5:00 a.m. | Crap, forget to turn off alarm.

    5:01 a.m. | Sleeping

    6:00 a.m. | Might as well get up.  Dog’s had the covers all night long.

    8:00 a.m. | Back to bed

    Sony headphones8:08 a.m. | Oliver and Mark are up and wanting to give me my gifts.  They gave me the Generation Kill DVD set and a new set of headphones.  Wendy gave me Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, a story about the slums of Mumbai, the dogs gave me Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean (never sure how Maggi is raising the money she spends) while they all went together and got me a new stereo/iPod dock.

    The bad news is that I have to listen to the Adele album that I bought Wendy.  Doh!

    10:00 a.m. | Oliver made me watch Power Rangers with him.  That wasn’t a good time.

    11:00 a.m. | Off to get some Brier tickets for the final tonight and have lunch at Fuddruckers where Mark wants me to eat a one pound hamburger.  If I do eat it, it may very well decide how the rest of my birthday goes.

    11:30 a.m | Brier tickets secured.

    12:00 p.m. | Lunch at Asia Buffet.

    1:00 p.m.  | A quick trip to Indigo where I grabbed a discounted copy of Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela and Arrival City by Doug Saunders.  Because the last thing I would want to do is have a totally pleasant birthday, I also picked up Invisible Chains, a book about the sex trade and human trafficking in Canada.

    3:00 p.m. | I am watching Band of Brothers with Mark this afternoon while getting some work down.

    4:40 p.m. | Mark has been introduced to NBA Jam on the iPad.  Boom-shaka-lacka

    5:00 p.m. | What the heck?  Where did that flu come from.  This isn’t good.

    6:30 p.m. | Wendy made me a nice supper and am putting back another episode of Band of Brothers with Mark.  I forgot how great the music is in the series.  Best line from the mini-series, “We’re paratrooper’s Lieutenant, we’re supposed to be surrounded.”

    8:00 p.m. | I am off to bed for the night.  The flu has gotten worse.

    My setup

    I was asked a while ago about the gear I use around the office and at home.  Here it is in the nutshell.

    I use a HP 6910p laptop running Windows Vista as my main machine now.  I use it at home and at work and keep my files sync’d using Windows Live Mesh.  I don’t use a mouse and while the computer has a trackpoint, I tend to use the touch pad for the first time in my life.    I tried to use ObjectDock because I really love the dock but it causes all sorts of problems for my applications so I just use a basic Windows setup.

    I keep my music on my iPod.  When my office mate is in the office, I plug them into some Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones.  When she is gone, I tend to plug it into my iStereo dock.

    Most of my writing is done in Libre Office.  I have a copy and a license of Microsoft Office but I am ready to give it up.  Libre Office hasn’t caused me any problems and it works for me.

    My office rig is pretty basic.  It have a HP dc7800  It’s powered by a 3.00 Ghz Intel core duo and is hooked to a 32 inch display with 2 gigs of RAM.  Hooked up to a it is a cheap generic webcam and 5.1 channel surround sound speakers.  It runs Windows 7

    I use Gimpshop. Picasa, MediaImpression, Libre Office, and Windows Live Writer and not a lot else

    My desk is actually an old boardroom table that has been converted into a desk.  My office has seven chairs in it and I just grab whatever is closest to me.   Yesterday there were only five chairs in here but every time there is a meeting in here, people bring extra desk chairs.

    My phone is a Samsung Galaxy Ace which goes with me everywhere and I have an iPad 2.  Despite seeing how well the Logitech keyboard works for some of Saskatoon’s city council, I went with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard that works really well.  I have Numbers and Keynote but I generally only use Pages and Evernote.

    As for application.  My day starts and ends in Evernote, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Gmail.  Google Calendar, Evernote, and Google Contacts all sync with my phone, iPod Touch, and my iPad, and are available on my notebook and desktop.  Having a centralized place for all of my information is huge for me and really makes any device I am on work the same across all platforms.   I really need to use the cloud to store my iPod and iPad docs but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    I tend not to use PowerPoint when I speak as I think speaking is a lost art but if I really need to, I use Libre Impress.  The only program that I really miss here is AbiWord which got buggy a couple of releases ago and hasn’t really gotten fixed.

    So there you go, Android, Windows, and two different Apple devices.  It all seems to work.

    Christmas Around Here

    I see that both Wendy and Mark have posted about Christmas so I thought I might as well.  I won’t describe the day as Wendy did a great job of doing that but I will ad in that it was a lot of fun to have friends and family around. 

    For my gifts, Wendy and Lee went in and got me a new 32 gb iPod Touch.  My iPod Touch was a first generation one and I was quite excited to see the it finally shipping with both a camera and a video camera in it.  I don’t have a Blackberry or smartphone but this does a good job of letting me both work and play when I need to.  I bought iMovie, and a bunch of 99 cent EA games for it and I am good to go.  Wendy also gave me a massive Rambo type knife.  I am not sure what I will use it for but there is a small first aid and survival kit in the knife handle.  Now that’s a knife.

    Wilson CFL footballMaggi gave me a Wilson CFL football.  I have an NFL football but when I am watching the Grey Cup, you really need a bigger ball to toss around.

    Oliver gave me a Team Canada Hockey seat cover and steering wheel cover for Hank while Santa brought me a portable external hard drive for my netbook.  I have shot several hours of video for my documentary and I really need more hand drive space if I am going to get it done in 2011 (more on that in a later post).

    Lee surprised me with a copy of The Pacific on Blu Ray which made no sense since we don’t have a Blu-Ray player.  Of course then Mark unwrapped a PS3 that had Madden 11 with it.  He also gave me a The Force Unleashed II and gave Mark Call of Duty: World at War.  According to Sony VP Kevin Butler, it only does everything.  As for our PS2, it will be donated to the Centre’s half-way house where I am sure someone will enjoy playing it in the lounge.  He also gave me a new multi-tool set and flashlight.

    Speaking of Lee, he was babysitting the boys this summer and Wendy walked in and all three of them were watching Predator.  Seriously, he was letting a ten year old and a 2 year old watch Predator and both of them were a little nervous.  To prove he learned nothing, there was a copy of Predator in Blu-Ray under the tree for Mark and Oliver.  We all had a great laugh over that.

    On Christmas Day we went to the Reimers for Christmas dinner.  Reimers gave me a nice set of binoculars for use up at the cabin.  With North America’s oldest bird sanctuary only a couple of miles north of the cabin, there are a lot of birds flying around.  They also gave me Settlers of Catan which sounds like an ideal way to spend an evening with friends.  Kristi helped make my Christmas tree a little more Riderish with some Saskatchewan Roughrider tree ornaments and a calendar of stupid quotes.  I have a whole year of mocking stupid people ahead of me.  The only thing that I didn’t like about the dinner was that Gloria won’t give me the recipe for an amazing green bean casserole she makes.  It’s a family secret I am told.

    Shaving brush and soapI am not sure any of that was on my Christmas list but it made for a fun day.  The only two things that were on my MUST HAVE list were a new zippered wallet (I hate it when I drop my wallet and my cards fall out) and a shaving brush and shaving soap which were in my stocking.

    Thanks everyone, it’s been a great couple of days.

    Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for the Road Warrior / World Traveller | 2010 Edition

    It’s just about time for every radio station to start playing holiday music, so that makes it a good time to be thinking about gifts for that special road warrior in your life.  In case you don’t find what you are looking for, check out the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides.

    Apple iPad |  If your loved on spends a lot of time travelling, waiting, improvising, problem solving, and then some more travelling, you will want to get them an iPad to allow them to work on the plan, the road, in line, in their hotel, and everywhere in between.

    From $529 at Amazon or from $499 at the Apple Store

    If they don’t want an iPad, you can also pick up some Android Tablets pretty inexpensively like this one from Walgreens for only $129.

    JanSport Antics Wheeled Backpack :: If you are like me, you have your laptop, PSP, iPod, a book, magazine, and a drink or two with you when you go on the plane.  While none of them weigh that much together, they do add up.  Your loved one could carry all of that with them but believe me, a wheeled backpack is a wonderful thing to have as you stand in line at the counter, stand in line at security, stand in line at Starbucks, and stand in line while waiting to board.  Travelling can be enough of a mental and physical workout without having to heave your luggage around or have to worry about your laptop.  $71.25 from Amazon

    Nightwave Sleep Aid | Many road warriors have spent many nights trying to fall to sleep for a variety of reasons.  Different bed, time zone issues and the stress of a big meeting tomorrow.  The Nightwave is designed to help you find that needed sleep naturally.  Nightwave silently guides you in a pre-sleep relaxation session in the privacy of your own bedroom. it’s like having your own personal sleep coach.  Nightwave projects a soft blue light into your darkened bedroom. the “luminance” of the light slowly rises and falls.  You lie with eyes open and synchronize your breathing with the wave of soft light as its movement becomes slower and slower. after a short time, Nightwave shuts off and you roll over and fall asleep. and unlike sound machines, the soft light does not disturb others.  Why does Nightwave work? Nightwave works so well because it quiets the mind and relaxes the body. With Nightwave, a gentle focus on an external cue gives you an escape from the overactive mind. $33.75 from Amazon

    Pelican Micro Case :: Are you going to trust the airline to keep your loved ones iPod, cell phone, or Blackberry safe?  I wouldn’t either.  Toss them in one of these Pelican Micro Cases and while the airline may destroy their bag, they will at least be able to phone and complain.

    Keeping these portable devices charged is a tough task when you’re always on the go, and that’s why we recommend the Energizer Energi To Go XP4000. The XP4000 is a portable rechargeable power pack which can charge anything with a USB connection, whether it be an iPod, iPhone, or a digital camera. The power pack comes with various tips including mini-USB, micro-USB, iPod dock connector, and others used for a slew of smartphone manufacturers such as Motorola and Nokia. The Energi To Go XP4000 can be purchased from Amazon.com for around $60 with free shipping.

    Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones :: I still remember the first time I flew and turned on my fairly inexpensive noise cancelling headphones.  The engine noise disappeared, the voices around me became audible and I was far more refreshed as I stopped off the plane.  It also made it much easier to sleep.  While Bose sets the standard for noise cancelling headphones, you can pick up some Sony noise cancelling headphones for quite a bit less money.

    If their computer’s webcam leaves something to be desired, how about getting them one of Microsoft Lifecam HD webcams. This webcam, delivers smooth, detailed 16:9 video in full 720p HD quality. Optimized for Windows Live, the LifeCam Cinema also works with Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype for video calls and messaging.  The camera has good low light performance and gives your favorite road warrior a way to chat to their family at the end of a long flight or day on the road.  It’s only a couple of years late but it finally give PC users a webcam to rival Apple’s amazing iSight.

    As most everyone will witness this holiday season, getting through airport security will be a mess and Timbuk2 is here to help. The new Commute 2.0 and Blogger 2.0 bags are the greatest laptop bags for a quick whisk through the TSA lines. They both offer a laptop compartment that unzips so you don’t have to go through the hassle of taking your laptop out. If that isn’t enough to convince you, both also have a waterproof front flap to keep your valuables dry in stormy weather. The Commute 2.0 and Blogger 2.0 bags from Timbuk2 sell for $100 each.

    Fujifilm FinePix XP10 | The FinePix XP10 is a four-proof digital cameras – waterproof, freezeproof, shockproof and dustproof. Resulting from a redesign of Fujifilm’s best-selling FinePix Z33WP, the FinePix XP10 is an ergonomically “life proof” camera housed in a metal uni-body chassis with a tactile grip finish.  The details: 12MP, Fujinon 5x Periscopic Optical Zoom, 2.7″ LCD, waterproof – 10ft (3M), shockproof – 3ft (1M) and freezeproof 14*F (-10*C). Other features include: Face Detection w/ Red Eye Removal, Digital Image Stabilization, High Sensitivity 1600 ISO, 6 Scene – SR Auto Automatic Scene Recognition, One-Touch HD Movie 720p w/ Sound, Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery.  It all adds up to one of the best compact cameras that have come along for years.  $142 from Amazon

    Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive | The Iomega eGo is a serious hard drive for serious business travelers. The portable drive has a sturdy steel enclosure and a special feature that protects data against falls. The palm-size device weighs less than 7 ounces, yet has 500GB of capacity, enough to store up to two million photos, more than 9,000 hours of music or 750 hours of video. Available in red, silver, blue, and black. $88 from Amazon

    Cowhide Leather Zipper Travel Wallet | I am not sure why I took so long to get on the travel wallet bandwagon but one folder for your airline tickets, some cash, passport, and a pen is a wonderful idea.  It really does simplify heading through the ticket line, boarding line, security line, and customs. $19.99 from Amazon

    If you can find what you are looking for, make sure you check out one of the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides

    In case you are looking, here are the 2009 Gift Guides

    Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

    Christmas Gifts Guide: Gift Ideas For Your Wife / Girlfriend & the other women in your life | 2010 Edition

    Shopping for Wendy has always been hard.  She never gives me any ideas and the ideas that she does give me are things that two days later she no longer wants.    For all of you who are married or dating someone who is hard to shop for, here is the list of Christmas gift suggestions for your wife or girlfriend.  You can thank me later.

    Amazon’s Kindle | If your wife/girlfriend/mom is an avid reader, how about getting her a Kindle?  If you are undecided on whether or not you should be leaving paper for e-ink, check out this balanced review from a diehard book lover who fell in love with his Kindle.  The new version is smaller, lighter, has Wifi and a higher contrast screen.  One of the reasons it’s such a great gift is that your loved one doesn’t have to have it with them to still benefit from owning it.  Amazon has readers for the iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, WinPhone 7, Windows, and OS X. The killer feature here is Amazon’s multi-platform support.  You can start a book on your Kindle, pick up a couple of pages here and there on your phone, and sneak a couple more pages on your desktop computer on coffee break.  It even keeps track of what page you are on (across different machines and platforms).  The best book is the one that’s always with you.  It’s available at Amazon.com for $139.00.

    Bose Wave Music System :: The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos. Its award-winning design adds a touch of distinction to almost any room. No wonder so many people use it as their main home entertainment system.  Numerous reviews speak of the Bose Wave’s clarity and amazing room filling sound.  If you are looking for the best all in one unit, this is the one you are looking for.  If you are thinking of adding the CD changer, you may want to check out the numerous negative reviews on Amazon.com before picking one up.   You can pick up the Bose Wave Music System at Amazon for $495.

    Another interpretation of the all in one is the Cambridge Soundworks Radio 765i | As one Amazon reviewer described it…

    Got rid of a DVD player, a VHS player (time to completely dump the format, at least for us), and an iPod speaker “donut” thing. Plugged in everything, connecting to our tube TV, & was very simple. Did a lot to make the whole area look much neater. Put in a Lion King DVD and was amazed at the sound (DVD sound is through the Soundworks, not the TV). You know in the movie theatre, when that THX Dolby piece comes up, the one that almost scares you by trying to stretch your ear muscles with high pitched and super-bass “strings”? It sounded JUST like it does in the theatre. My wife rushed in from the kitchen asking, “WHAT was that?”.  My daughter then played one of her Star Trek TNG DVDs and for the first time, we could hear the sub-woofer “whoosh” when the Enterprise goes by on the screen — never heard any of this before.

    Find it at Amazon for $285.

    Saddleback Leather Messenger Bag | While Wendy is a tomboy and hates most purses, she still needs to carry things with her.  The Saddleback Leather Messenger company has a bag that allows her to keep herself organized and allows her to keep both her tomboy and hipster potentials intact.  It comes with a 100 year warranty, made out of 100% Thick full grain boot leather, has no breakable parts, e.g. zippers, snaps etc. and converts quickly into a backpack.  It may be the perfect bag.  $347 from Saddleback Leather

    While Wendy looks amazing, living in Saskatchewan can be a challenge.  Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar skin care products have a cult following and will help hydrate skin in even the driest climates.  This air-whipped, therapeutic moisturizer has been described by Philosophy founder Cristina Carlino as, “like pouring a glass of water into my skin.  That sounds unhealthy to me but apparently that is a good thing.

    HP Mini 210 Netbook | It does a good job of running Windows 7 Basic, the HP Mini 210 lets you surf the web, stay connected, and be entertained wherever you go.  Take just what you need And leave the rest on your primary PC. At less than one inch thin and starting at just 2.69 pounds,  It comes with a 16:9 10.1″ diagonal BrightView Infinity display and nearly full-size keyboard.  $307 and available at Amazon or for $359 at Future Shop.

    iPod Shuffle | It has 2 GB capacity for about 500 songs and you can play up to 15 hours on a single charge.  With a press of the VoiceOver button, you can hear the song’s title and artist, playlist menu, or battery status.  You can get one at Amazon for $50.

    Sennheiser CX300-B In-Ear Stereo Headphone | While the iPod comes with Apple’s iconic headphones, you really will want to upgrade those to something with better sound quality and that feels better in your ears.  While not their top of the line headphones, they are a big upgrade over both the Apple headphones and most other in-ear headphones.  $25 and available at Amazon.

    Belkin Dock with USB Wall Charger for iPod | If you have a stereo that you really like and don’t want to replace it with a Bose Wave or another stereo system, add an iPod dock to your system that allows easy playing of your music while charging it at the same time.  We have one at the cabin plugged into a compact stereo and it works great and makes sure all of our iPod’s are charged up for the drive home.

    Wendy and I have been married for 13 years and I still hate buying things for the house without her feedback.  Despite that, I am going to go out on a limb and recommend the KNUBBIG lamp from IKEA.  It gives a room a soft mood light and since each is mouth blown glass; each lamp is unique. $18.99


    Tetris Party for Nintendo DS
    | I bought Wendy a Nintendo DS last year and she really enjoyed it.  Of course the definitive Nintendo game (going back to the Nintendo Gameboy) is probably Tetris and it will give your loved one something to do when you have parked yourself in front of NFL Redzone.

    The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks | This game was suggested to me by several people who grew up playing Legend of Zelda and love the latest incarnation for the Nintendo DS.  It is an action/adventure game for the Nintendo DS and DSi that sets Link, the iconic hero of the Legend of Zelda series, on a daring new adventure. The game provides players with a new story, more puzzles, a new mode of transportation–by train–and a new companion in combat, the Phantom. Together these offer up new possibilities for problem-solving, adventure and fun to both long time and new fans of the franchise alike.

    Brain Age and Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS | These two games were given to Wendy for her birthday and Christmas last year and she been frustrated by them all year.  Brain Age acts like a treadmill for the mind and helps you flex your mental muscles with quick activities that help keep your brain in shape. Brain Age is inspired by the research of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a prominent Japanese neuroscientist. His studies evaluated the impact of performing certain reading and mathematic exercises to help stimulate the brain.

    Apple iPod Touch | I gave a 3G iPod Touch to Wendy last year for her birthday and she loved it.  While it was a great iPod Touch, the new version is even better. See friends while you talk to them with FaceTime. Shoot, edit, and share stunning HD video. Play games against friends, or unknown foes, with the new Game Center. And do it all on the Retina display–the highest-resolution screen on any mobile device. Available at Amazon.com for $223.

    Samsung Link | Wendy has a horrible record with cell phones.  She leave it turned off, forgets to charge it, never takes it with her.  In other words I was playing for a pretty much useless cell phone.  After losing her cell phone this summer, I went out and bought her a Samsung Link/Samsung Freeform and she started to carry it with her, had it turned on, and used it all of the time.  The QWERTY keyboard makes it really easy to text and the 1.3 megapixel camera is fun to have along and grab photos of the boys or just take some photos while up at the lake.

    Saskatchewan Roughriders Ladies Jersey | You can personalize the jersey with your choice of name and number. Using laser cut name and numbers system  the Riders can customize the jersey you’ve been wanting. This system is used in several NFL, NHL and MBL stadiums. Same fonts and colors used by the team. Includes name on back and numbers on front, back and sleeves. $149.99 and available at The Rider Store

    Kodak EasyShare C180 10.2MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom and 2.4 inch LCD |  Chronicle your life with great pictures and videos you can easily upload online. The camera even locates faces automatically so you can focus on more important things — getting that smile. Plus, you can even take stunning HD formatted photos and view it on your HDTV.  $99 from Amazon.com or $59 from XS Cargo.

    Holga Bent Corners 35mm Camera | If who you are shopping for is a photography fan, go old school and get her a modern Holga 35mm flash-less camera that takes the same vibrant-colored, dreamy high-contrast photos as the original, medium-format 120mm Holga – with totally dramatic vignetting and the ease of 35mm film that can be processed anywhere (the film size also means fully panoramic shots). Two shutter and aperture settings; uncoupled film advance and shutter (for multiple exposures in one frame!);manual zone focus with four distance settings.  Get it at Urban Outfitters for $48.

    Magno Cube Wooden Radio | Hand-crafted in an Indonesian farming village, the Magno Cube is a 4 band FM/AM/SW1/SW2 radio receiver with a highly appealing mix of retro and modern styling.  Each wooden radio is made through an environmentally sustainable production process, which covers fair social standards for workers. The profits from the sale of the radios to the Design Museum Shop support the development of a plantation surrounding the production facility, including the ongoing education of 30 young people in handicraft and work skills. Only new growth plantation wood is used and for every tree that is used in production, a new one is planted. MP3 compatible. Each radio arrives with a wooden connecting cable to connect iPods and mp3 players directly to the radio, so it can be used as a speaker. £175.00 from Design Museum Shop.

    Swiss Army Perfume for Her | As the Victorinox website puts it.

    This fresh, floral and dazzling fragrance is for the active, contemporary women. She seeks stylishly natural, clean scent to carry her through the day. This unique blend of Lilly of the Valley, Peony and fizzy Ginger surrounds you in all of the glory of nature. It is the fragrance for the modern, spontaneous women with natural class.

    Ork Posters | If you or the target of your affections lives in Toronto, Vancouver, Boston, Brooklyn,  Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle among others.  They are $22 a poster which makes them a pretty cool value.  Of course they don’t have one of either Brandon, Manitoba or Georgetown, Guyana which makes them pretty much useless for Wendy but maybe you will have some better luck.

    If the person that you are shopping for is starting to take a look into the world of DSLRs and has outgrown her existing camera, check out Sony’s a320 camera.  It’s an entry level DSLR and is only $349 from Future Shop.  It’s Sony’s smallest and lightest Alpha DSLR camera.  It features a 10.2MP sensor, a large 2.7″ Clear Photo LCD, built-in SteadyShot inside image stabilization, and Creative Style settings that let you bring your shooting to the next level. This kit includes a versatile 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM zoom lens.  $349 from Future Shop.

    I hesitate to post this because for the life of me I can’t see why one would need one but Wendy loves it.  It’s a Sunbeam Tea Drop Hot Tea Maker which accommodates both bagged and loose tea.   $58.95 from Amazon.  While it doesn’t steep the tea, it does give you a fair amount of control over the strength of tea.   If you are looking for a tea maker that does steep the tea, check out the Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea Maker.  This maker does it all – heats water, steeps leaves, and keeps tea warm so you may enjoy it all day long. Variable timer and temperature control lets you adjust the strength of an infusion, ensuring a perfect cup of tea each time. Works well with all tea varieties.


    Wenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss Watch
    | Stylish enough for everyday professional wear, the Wenger Battalion II Diver stainless steel women’s watch is also rugged enough for extreme snow sports and scuba diving–thanks to its water resistance to 200 meters (660 feet). The mid-sized, round silver watch case is topped by a blue-plated unidirectional rotating bezel with elapsed time markings and a luminous marker at the zero position. The shimmery royal blue dial face is complemented by luminous markers and hands (with red seconds hand), small minute indexes around the outer edge, and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Other features include a handsome triple-link stainless steel bracelet, knurled screw-down crown, classic Swiss Army insignia at 12 o’clock, a scratch-resistant mineral crystal, and precise Swiss quartz movement. $76 from Amazon

    If you can find what you are looking for, make sure you check out one of the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides

    In case you are looking, here are the 2009 Gift Guides

    Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

    E vs. ink

    My friend Karen posted some thoughts on Twitter about ebooks and readers.

    Been thinking about how e-books/Ipad exclude poorer readers. Continued…. Folks with literacy/soc. justice concerns should keep zines/broadsheet etc. in mind. If medium is message, cost of readers excludes many.

    It would easy to dismiss Karen’s thoughts because of her history with paper but she has a good point.  A Sony Reader ranges in price from $240 in Futureshop ($179 online) to $149 at Wal-MartChapters is promoting a new reader for $149.00 which isn’t that bad except you realize that a) that is all you can do with it and b) I am buying it so I can buy new books.  I am paying $199 (or $259 if I am looking for a Kindle) so I can spend even more money to use it.

    Most of our gadgets are like that.

    In our household right now, we have:

    • 2 Sony PSPs and games are anywhere from $15 to $40
    • 3 iPods and songs are $.99 to $1.29 but we can use our own CDs to rip music.  Apps range from free to $4.
    • 1 PS2 and games are $10 and $25
    • 1 Nintendo Wii and games are from $20 to $60 (yet all have come from Lee).

    So what’s the difference.  Well I don’t think you can compare Backyard Football or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to books and education.  My quality of life is not reduced because I don’t have a PS3 at all but my quality of life is greatly reduced by lack of access to books and news media.  Low cost news media serves several important functions in our families life outside of the obvious.

    While driving to the cabin a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in Watrous (at Pip’s Esso) for a snack and grabbed a copy of Popular Mechanics and tossed it the backseat for Mark to read on the way up there.  It opened up his mind to several things as he poured over both the articles and the ads.  How many times has all of our lives been enriched by someone doing something similar.  A lot of my spring reading was done by people wandering in to my office and tossing a book on my desk and saying, “you will like this”.  With publishers and their DRM restrictions, you can’t do that.  Even if Wendy and I both get Sony Readers, we can’t share a book.

    Reader Store screen capture Everyone is touting Google Books as the answer.  Even Sony has a link to Google Books on the front of their Reader Store.  I have spent hours going through there looking for books to download.  Most of the books you can download in ePub format for free are in the public domain and therefore really cheap to get at Indigo/Chapters/used book store in paper.  Sadly even many of them are not available because of the edition they scanned it from has restrictions on use and you are left with a snippet of what is available.

    So even if I do purchase it and really like it, how do I make sure Mark can read it other than giving him my reader.  Even if we bought a reader for him, I can’t transfer it to him there.  Everyone has been fawning over the new iPad app from Marvel and it is very cool but Cory Doctorow makes this point about the iPad but he could be talking about any ebook reader.

    Marvel app for the iPad I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It’s part of a multigenerational tradition in my family — my mom’s father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

    So what does Marvel do to "enhance" its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.

    That’s what I am realizing that we are losing.  Books, comics, and papers are part of the social ties that bind people together in communities.  Around work, the Star Phoenix is a communal paper.  It is read together, digested together, shared, it’s flyers are passed around and deals discussed.  Also, it gets treated as exactly as what Karen is talking about.

    Well, we aren’t going to turn back time and to be honest, many publishers are banking everything on the iPad to save them (anyone else find it an odd coincidence that the financially struggling New York Times is features so prominently in Apple advertising)  As I was thinking seriously about buying a ebook reader this week, I took a step back from the side of the cliff and asked myself if what I am losing more than what I was getting and I had to admit it was.  From a design and an engineering point of view, the iPad/Kindle is a great piece of technology and a lot of fun (and yes I know the iPad comparison isn’t fair as it isn’t really designed as a book reader but rather a tablet computer).  Is it good enough to stop supporting a local bookstore (although Indigo/Chapters made those pretty rare in Canada) or lose the social element of reading and learning as an entire community.

    So in the end, I continue to support print magazines.  For the record, those include National Geographic, Explore Magazine, Mountain Bike Action, Sports Illustrated, The Atlantic Monthly and The Walrus via subscription or purchasing one monthly at McNally Robinson.  While I only read The Star Phoenix online, we do subscribe at home (where Mark reads it with me every evening) and at work.

    Last Week at Jordon Cooper Outfitters

    • Wendy gave me a copy of Les Stroud’s book, Survive! for Christmas.  I posted a quick review of it over at the Outfitters.  It was a great gift!  Thanks Wendy.
    • If you have never tried a pair of noise cancelling headphones, I found a pair that will let you experience what you have been missing and not break the bank.  I am a big fan of them and if you have never used them, you don’t know what you are missing while travelling.
    • I give some love and attention to that other portable gaming system, the Sony PlayStation Portable.
    • Earlier this week I linked to what is probably the greatest duffle bag that I have ever seen.  If you purchase one of these, you may have to upgrade your travel plans just so they don’t look out of place.

    To e or not to e

    I am trying to figure out if I want to purchase an e-book reader.  Actually I am trying to decide if I want to pressure Wendy to get me an e-book reader for my birthday.

    The three main choices seem to be:

    Amazon Kindle

    The Amazon Kindle is finally available and functional in Canada.  It’s has a six inch screen, I can read newspapers and magazines on it, and of course I can subscribe to some blogs on it.

    Here are the highlights

    • Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
    • Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback
    • Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered wirelessly in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
    • 3G Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle; no annual contracts, no monthly fees, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
    • Global Coverage: Enjoy 3G wireless coverage at home or abroad in over 100 countries. See details. Check wireless coverage map.
    • Paper-Like Display: Reads like real paper without glare, even in bright sunlight
    • Carry Your Library: Holds up to 1,500 books
    • Longer Battery Life: Now read for up to 1 week on a single charge with wireless on, a significant improvement from the previous battery life of 4 days
    • Built-In PDF Reader: Your Kindle can now display PDF documents natively. Native PDF support allows you to carry and read all of your personal and professional documents on the go.
    • Read-to-Me: With the experimental Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books out loud to you, unless the book’s rights holder made the feature unavailable
    • Free Book Samples: Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy
    • Large Selection: Over 400,000 books, including 101 of 112 New York Times® Best Sellers, plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs. For non-U.S. customers, content availability and pricing will vary. Check your country.
    • Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. When traveling abroad, you can download books wirelessly from the Kindle Store or your Archived Items. U.S. customers will be charged a fee of $1.99 for international downloads.

    Of course what has really gotten me excited about the Kindle is the apps that will be coming.  The ability to blog, Tweet, or do other things from this device would make it exponentially better.

    The Sony Reader

    I hadn’t really thought of the Sony Reader until Warren Kinsella talked about his Christmas gift on his blog.

    I got Sony’s gadget for Christmas, and I haven’t put it down yet. Right now, I’m re-re-reading Vonnegut stuff, and plan to re-read The Great Gatsby.

    The eReader lets you download books super-cheap – sometimes free, for the classics – and then upload them to the eReader through an iTunes-like interface.

    It’s easy to read, and you can increase the font size if (like me) your eyes are getting a bit older. You can load music on it, and even photos (but they’ll be in a quaint black and white).

    It’s gotten me reading fiction again, big time. I don’t know why. A gentleman spotted me using it this week, and we chatted about it, and I told him it makes reading funner. (I didn’t say funner, however, I said something else, which my sleep-deprived hockey Dad brain now forgets). It’s easy to carry around, among other things.

    I don’t know anything about the Amazon Kindle, but I’ve heard it’s pretty cool, too. There’s lots of AppleBuzz about Steve Job’s tablet thingie, per usual.

    The old-fashioned way of reading books is swell, of course, and has the added advantage of being bathtub-friendly. They also don’t require re-charging.

    I just wanted to opine that these new devices are pretty neat. And anything that makes reading easier is a good thing, no?

    Sony Reader

    The reviews talk about a two week battery life and there is a general consensus that the Sony ebook store is less expensive then the Amazon one.  When you purchase as many books as I do, that is a big deal.  They both have six inch screens and weigh about the same and in Canada I need to use Wifi to download books.  The Kindle has a keyboard but the Sony Reader has a tough screen.   Of course the Kindle has apps coming and Sony has never embraced the idea of apps for it’s PSP so I doubt it would for the Reader.  Of course one of the reasons I love to read a book is that it takes me away from technology so perhaps a Twitter free Sony Reader is a plus, not a negative.

    Another big plus for the Sony Reader is that it has access to the entire Google Books library.  With the Kindle, you (or I) am locked into Amazon.  The Sony Reader has a bigger world.

    Here is the feature summary

    The Kindle 2 vs the Sony Reader

    PC World thinks that the Sony Reader has the advantage over the Kindle.

    Here is my dilemma.  Most of the books I read, I don’t care if I ever read them again.  While some of been lovingly published (the BLDGBlog Book comes to mind), much of them are poorly bound, edited and even written.  While I care as a book as piece of art, I don’t care that much for books as paper and ink. I read them and give them away.  For those books, I would love a ebook reader.

    I have a small house and need to literally give away 600-700 books for the space they take up.  A device that allows me to store books internally or with a SD card is my friend.

    Of course there is the iTablet but I find Apple stuff really overpriced at launch as you Apple nerds rush out to get them and when I want to read, I don’t want to watch a movie. So while Darryl Dash keeps the share price of Apple strong, I ask the question… Kindle or Sony Reader?