Great Gift Gear

Holiday Gift Guide

December 11, 2003

Holiday shopping makes it easy to indulge an interest in technology. With digital camera sales poised to pass those of film cameras, the ascendance of three separate video game consoles and new options for listening to music, there are more choices than ever before. After a year of reviewing some of the best products available, we offer this guide to help the technologically savvy -- and the not-so-savvy -- find just the right gifts.

Software

Getting creative

If you have a few dollars to spend, you may find it enjoyable to surprise an artist friend with the Adobe Creative Suite (CS).

At $999, it includes the latest version of the Photoshop image editing program, Illustrator art program and InDesign document layout software for the Mac and PC. At $1,200 it comes with Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional and GoLive CS for Web authoring in addition to the standard suite. These are the latest incarnations of Adobes most useful programs. (If you're running short on funds, each of the programs is available separately.)

A short workshop-style design guide is included in the package. We liked all of the products especially Photoshop, which continues to be the best image- editing program on the market. This package is not for the novice interested in graphics or photography, but the professional or pro-consumer who wants the ultimate in holiday joy.

Information: (800)-833-6687 or www.adobe.com

Surfing security

Winfernos Secure IE 2003 ($40) is our choice for protecting your computer from popup ads, personal information theft by hackers and browser hijacking things not handled by firewalls and virus scanners in many cases. Secure IE will intercept all file downloads and route them automatically through your virus scanner. It will even delete cookies after you finish surfing.

Secure IE is about choice, which is why we liked using it. Just choose the Secure IE icon on your desktop after youve connected to the Internet. Once inside the Secure IE interface, you can decide whether to block flash or Active X controls or even popups. And each browser window is separate so that if you want to move on to another site during your surfing, you can easily return to a window with browser tabs.

Information: www.secureie.com.

Household gadgets

Steamed up

Most of the gadgets we see on television dont impress us much when they show up in the mail. The Euro Pro Shark Professional Steamer is the exception to the rule. In fact, we've found it handy in so many places that its hard to think of doing some things without it. The Shark puts out a steady, heavy head of steam for cleaning everything from bathrooms to floors to dishes. Steam gets under the dirt and the grime and makes it easy to wipe away things like mildew, food on plates and mud.

The Shark comes with an extension hose and attachments that allow it to work on tile no- wax floors.

Information: 800-798-7395 or www.euro-pro.com.

Chopping power

Often, we find a food processor -- the kind that chops and slices vegetables for the most part -- a pain to use. On top of all of the rigamarole that goes into pulling it out of the back of a cabinet and assembling it, the processor often doesnt get the job done in an orderly and uniform fashion. But Euro-Pros Quad Blade Food Prep Center ($150) uses about 800 watts (1,100 watts for short turbo bursts) of power to create what the company calls a unique processing vortex. We don't know anything about this vortex stuff -- we just know that it was able to handle 6 cups of food at one time well. We've made cookie dough and pancake mix with ours as well as snow cones, for which the device powders ice quite well. In fact, onions and ice give other food processors a headache, but the Euro-Pro makes everything uniform.

The non-slip suction feet keep it from moving all over the place and the stainless steel blades and bowl come apart easily for washing either by hand or in a dishwasher. We had no complaints about the way it made ice cream, either.

Information: 800-798-7395 or www.euro-pro.com.

Gaming accessories

A fun combo

The Hip Gear Interactive Screen Pad ($50 for the PlayStation, PS2 and GameCube) is one of the biggest little accessories for the holiday season. It's a monitor and controller combined into one piece, just in case you don't have a television to play on.

The Interactive Screen Pad has a tiny 2.5-inch screen that uses technology that produces a less-pixilated image for games than an pure LCD display. The only downside we found was that while the screen locks down, your hands tend to be moving quickly and can bounce the screen around.

Information: www.hipgearproducts.com.

Shoot away

Radica's Gamester FPS Master ($30) is the master of all Xbox controllers when it comes to first-person shooter-style games.

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